Heart Health – Risk Factors and Foods for a Healthy Hearth
Your heart is an amazing organ
A single pump that can beat around 70 times a minute non-stop for 100 or more years, pumping more than 10 million liters of blood around your 100,000km of blood vessels every year. While it works we tend to take it for granted, and yet if more people could think of their heart health from their 30s on wards, then heart and arterial disease would not still be the number-one killer in the Western world.
For some there is a genetic predisposition for developing heart disease, but if you eat healthily and change any negative and unhealthy lifestyle patterns practiced by your parents and grandparents, then in most cases you can stack the cards in your favor and add decades to your life. The heart, like any other muscle, needs its own blood supply and receives this via three main vessels called the coronary arteries. Over time, one or more of the arteries can become blocked and if an artery becomes completely blocked, some of the heart muscle may die during a heart attack.
A heart attack can be fatal, but luckily many people survive their first attack. Specialists may recommend drugs and/or bypass surgery or other operative procedures, but it’s important to consider that none of these medical or surgical treatments attempts to solve the cause of the problem, only the result of the problem. While some heart attacks appear to strike out of the blue, there are usually warning signs telling us that something is wrong. The most common warning is angina – a constrictive pain in the chest, provoked by exertion. It’s the body’s signal that the blood supply to the heart is inadequate, owing to narrowed or spasms in the coronary arteries. If you experience angina, it’s time to act. You can still turn it around and live another 40 years or more. Some people have gone on to run a marathon after their first heart attack. If you suffer angina or have had a heart attack, then you need to radically change your diet, increase exercise (gently) and reduce stress. If you are healthy, then why not change your diet now and reduce your risk of having a heart attack in the first place.
* Excessive alcohol consumption
* High blood pressure
* High LDL cholesterol
* Being overweight, diabetes
* Insufficient exercise
* Eating a high-fat
* High-salt and high-sugar diet
* Insufficient intake of fresh fruit and vegetables
* Excessive stress.
TOP TEN FOODS FOR A HEALTHY HEART
1. Oily fish (salmon in particular, also mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna)
2. Seeds (linseeds, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame – unsalted)
3. Nuts (walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, pistachios – unsalted)
4. Fruits (apricots, mangoes, watermelon, pears, blueberries, tomatoes)
5. Vegetables (carrots, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, Brussels sprouts, watercress, cabbage, spinach, sweet potatoes)
6. Brown rice (and other grains such as quinoa and whole meal bread)
7. Oats (whole oats, rolled oats, oat bran)
8. Soy beans (tofu, fermented soy products)
9. Avocado (use it in salads, sandwiches or make it into guacamole)
10. Olive oil (use good quality extra virgin olive oil on salads)
CARDIOVASCULAR ACTION PLAN
• Stop smoking and avoid places where you will be exposed to second-hand smoke.
• Reduce consumption of animal products (red meat and full-fat dairy in particular).
• Reduce alcohol, which depletes the body of B vitamins, zinc and magnesium.
• Eliminate processed sugar wherever possible.
• Eat at least 6 to 8 helpings of fruit and vegetables per day.
• Increase fibers in your diet to eliminate excess cholesterol from the body.
• Reduce caffeine intake. And drink more water, at least 6 glasses daily.
• Eliminate soft caffeinated drinks.
• Eliminate any foods high in saturated fats, particularly deep-fried food.
• Keep your weight within a BMI of 25 or under. If you are overweight, lose weight.
• Reduce stress by making time for relaxing activities. Try and have a massage as often as you can.
• People who are angry and argumentative suffer more heart problems. Learn to deal with anger and internal emotions. Millions of people are dying because they don’t get things off their chest.
• Exercise regularly – start by walking for 30 minutes a day and gradually build it up.
• If you have diabetes, keep it under tight control.
• Get your blood pressure checked regularly, and keep it below 140/80.
See http://www.bhf.org.uk for more details. (British Heart Foundation)