Excess weight in the form of fat can lead to conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol level and diabetes which can increase the chance of heart attacks.
A diet that regularly includes fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy products and whole grains is good for the heart. Legumes such as beans, peas, lentils, low fat protein such as lean meat and certain types of fish rich in Omega 3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of heart attacks. For a normal person (without diabetes), it is good to include at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day to keep the heart ‘hale and healthy’!
Gaining weight in adulthood is mostly in the form of fatty tissue. Excess weight in the form of fat can lead to conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol level and diabetes which can increase the chance of heart attacks.
Fats in diet can be classified as saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fat. Saturated fat and Trans fat can raise blood cholesterol levels and trigger heart attacks. Red meat including beef and mutton, dairy products such as butter, cheese, unskimmed milk, coconut and palm oil and vanaspathi or vegetable fat have high levels of saturated and trans fat that can affect the heart adversely. Of the 2 kinds of harmful fats, there is scientific evidence that trans fat is worse than saturated fat because it raises the bad cholesterol, LDL and lowers the good cholesterol HDL. Trans fat is found highly concentrated in deep-fried fast foods, margarine, packaged snack items, bakery products such as cakes and biscuits.
A type of polyunsaturated fat called Omega-3 fatty acids is known to cut down the risk of heart attack by lowering blood pressure and protecting against irregular heartbeat, or Arrhythmia. Sardine, mackerel, salmon, lake trout, tuna, carp, herring and catfish are some fish varieties that are a good natural source of Omega 3 fatty acids. In flax seed oil, soyabean oil and canola oil these omega 3s are found in smaller amounts.
A heart-healthy diet also includes cutting down on heavy drinking of alcohol. Men should cap it with two drinks per day while women should restrict themselves to just one. Studies done in the West show that at this moderate level, alcohol can even protect the heart whereas anything above this level poses a serious threat to the heart.
Researchers all over the world are trying to find healthy alternatives for addictive food and drinks that retain the preferred taste and flavor and can still prevent heart disease. In a recent study published in the journal Nutrition researchers from the University of Valencia in Spain have claimed that alcohol-free beer can lower cholesterol levels in women and protect the heart. According to the study, alcohol-free beer reduces potentially dangerous accumulation of fat in the arteries and raises levels of antioxidants in the blood. The Telegraph however reported that this may be attributed to vitamins like B6 in the beer that help lower the effect of a chemical that can trigger the risk of heart disease.
People often send queries to the health and wellness section in newspapers, magazine and TV shows as to what type of food they should give up in order to remain heart- healthy. Truth is, if you don’t have a particular health problem such as high blood pressure or diabetes or heart problems you don’t have to give up any food altogether. Moderation and variety in choice of food are the keywords in healthy eating. Eating too much of the same food item repeatedly–ice cream for dessert everyday, for instance, can be alternated with yogurt and /or fresh fruit.
Eating a heart-healthy diet, quitting smoking and the habit of consuming excessive alcohol, getting into a physical regimen that is regular and moderately vigorous, maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular health screenings done, and utilizing some effective ways of stress management will surely guarantee a healthy life free from heart diseases.