To begin our discussion on nutrition for a healthy heart, we can think about the connection between obesity, cholesterol, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Atherosclerosis is a disease where plaque builds up inside your arteries. That plaque consists of fat, cholesterol and many other substances found in the blood. The plaque hardens over time and can enlarge causing the arteries to narrow. When that happens, your blood flow to different organs in your body is limited; and serious problems such as heart attack, stroke or even death can occur.
There are nutrition issues that affect atherosclerosis. When you eat a diet high in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol you risk having high blood cholesterol levels. Overweight and obesity are also contributors to increase risk of developing atherosclerosis, high blood pressure or hypertension; and scientists believe obesity can predict heart disease.
According to the American Heart Association, hypertension is about 3 times more common in people who are obese versus people who have a normal weight. Stress on your heart in increased when you have hypertension. And hypertension can lead to stroke.
Here are the seven factors that the American Heart Association considers important to heart health:
- smoking status
- healthy weight
- physical activity
- healthy diet
- good cholesterol levels
- normal blood pressure levels
- normal blood sugar levels
A study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that investigated the relationship between Body Mass Index and the incidence of heart failure found that after adjustment for established risk factors, obese study participants had doubled the risk of heart failure compared to subjects with a normal Body Mass Index.
And check out this information that was released along with the report:
According to the report, 94% of U.S. adults have at least one of these factors at poor levels; 38% of adults scored poorly on three or more. And here’s some really shocking news. Half of U.S. children ages 12 to 19 meet only four or fewer of the factors.
We can see that obesity is a huge factor in heart health. Your doctor, along with research scientists, are worried that unless we can reverse the growing trend of overweight and obesity, the number of deaths from heart disease and stroke will continue to increase, regardless of improved medical technology.
In other words we can’t just do research, find ways to manage heart disease, and hope things are going to get better. We need to get to the root of what’s causing the heart disease.
What can you do to get your cholesterol down?
How can you get to a healthy weight?
How can you lower your blood pressure?
We know at least part of the answer:
Nutrition For A Healthy Heart
Nutrition can help us improve all three of these issues, and help us build better heart health across the board.
Lifestyle will help as well: stop smoking and get regular physical activity – even walking.
We make bad choices every day. Even though we know that those choices are having a negative effect on our heart health. The Director of Cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Heart Health Institute in Los Angeles is quoted in the report as saying that he “worries that our bad habits could wipe out the potential benefits of medical advances within 15 or 20 years.”
The good news is that every day when you wake up, you have new choices for the day.
What will you do with the new day?
Will you exercise or go for a walk?
Will you finally make the decision to STOP SMOKING if you smoke?
Will you look at your nutrition options for the day, and make the good choices?
- limit unhealthy fats and cholesterol
- choose mono unsaturated fats like olive oil
- stay away from fried foods
- polyunsaturated fats that are found in nuts and seeds are good choices
- eat fish twice a week or take a high quality pure fish oil supplement
- choose low fat protein sources
- eat more vegetables and fruits
- consume more whole grains
- reduce sodium in your food
- avoid packaged and processed foods
Last, control your portion size and plan ahead for healthy meal choices. You can indulge every once in awhile – we shouldn’t deprive ourselves of the occasional piece of chocolate, or even one small indulgence per day. That should be a small portion worked in around an otherwise healthy eating day.
Moderation is a good word to keep in your eating vocabulary.