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Whilst it's well known that diet is an important factor for health and wellbeing, new studies showing the links between saturated fat and the risk of heart disease continue to raise debate.

A recent study published in Circulation looked at the diet of over 17,000 people in the United States over a six-year period. The study found that those who regularly ate a 'southern-style' diet (characterised by added fats, fried food, eggs, processed meats and sugar-sweetened beverages) experienced a 56 per cent higher hazard of acute coronary heart disease.

Another study, lead by Dr Russell de Souza of McMaster University and published in the British Medical Journal, found no clear link between consuming saturated fats, found in meat and dairy produce, and an increased risk of stroke, heart disease or diabetes. The research did find that consumption of 'trans-fats', mainly produced from plant oils, was associated with a 34 per cent increase in death, a 28 per cent increased risk of death from coronary heart disease, and a 21 per cent increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease. Despite this, British health experts and Dr de Souza have warned that changing the dietary guidelines is still not warranted.

Maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet is still an important factor in helping to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. However cutting down on saturated fats, and reducing salt and sugar is only one aspect of reducing heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. Other lifestyle risk factors include eating too much, being overweight, smoking and a lack of physical activity.

Most people are not aware they are suffering from heart disease, as it can present without symptoms. For many the first 'symptom' of cardiovascular disease is a heart attack. If diagnosed early, before symptoms develop, heart disease can be successfully treated and managed.

Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals Specialist Care offers heart screening clinics for those who wish to take steps to detect any possible concern as early as possible. This heart screening service can take as little as two hours and packages start from £195.