The next time you are standing in a long lineup at your favorite fast food restaurant, remember that the food choices you make now play an essential role in how healthy your heart will be in the future. Okay, so it’s probably not what you want to hear when you’re about to devour a greasy burger and fries, but better to hear it now than battle high cholesterol or severe heart disease a few years down the road.
Most Common Type of Heart Disease
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the leading type of heart disease. It is caused when there is a narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels leading to the heart. Over time, CAD can weaken the heart muscle, which will result in heart failure and arrhythmias. It is one of if not the most common types of heart disease and is the leading cause of death and heart attacks in the U.S.
Heart Disease: Facts Don’t Lie
Approximately 610,000 people die each year in the U.S. because of heart disease—one in every four deaths! Coronary artery disease accounted for 370,000 of those deaths. In 2009, more than half of the deaths caused by heart disease were men.
Warning Signs of a Heart Attack
Did you know that almost 50% of sudden cardiac deaths occur outside the hospital? This illustrates the fact that most people are completely unaware of the signs and symptoms of heart attacks and do not act when they experience them. Let’s take a look at a few of the major warning signs and symptoms for heart attacks:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea, lightheadedness or cold sweats
The people who are at a higher risk of getting a heart attack are those who have high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol, and smokers. Almost half of the American population can probably factor in at least one of these risk factors. In addition, there are several other medical conditions and lifestyles that can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease:
- Obesity or being overweight
- Poor diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol use
Maintain Your Heart with Healthy Food!
Okay, so now you’re ready to eat right and take good care of your heart! If you’re a bit confused about what types of food to consume, here are some helpful tips on what your diet should look like and what you should be eating on a daily basis.
Use Up Those Calories:
- The first thing you need to know is how many calories you should be eating and drinking in order to maintain your weight; speak with your doctor about this
- Never eat more calories than you know you can burn each day
- If you do want to consume more calories, you need to increase the intensity of your physical activities to match the calories you are consuming
- Do some form of exercise for at least 30 minutes a day; exercise will help you maintain or lose weight and help you reach your cardiovascular fitness goals
Eat Nutritious Foods:
It is extremely beneficial to consume nutrient-rich food containing minerals, vitamins and other nutrients that will help control your weight, your cholesterol and blood pressure. Follow a dietary pattern that will focus on the following:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy products
- Poultry, fish and nuts
- Limiting red meat, sugary foods, and sugary beverages
Base Your Eating Pattern on These Recommendations:
- Eat fish at least twice a week. Research has shown that eating oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids can lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease
- Reduce saturated fat to about five percent of your total calories to lower your cholesterol
- Avoid beverages and foods with added sugars
Foods That Are Healthy for Your Heart:
1. Wild salmon: You can eat it broiled, baked or grilled; it is packed with omega-3 fatty acids that will improve the metabolic markers for heart disease. It has rich levels of selenium, which is an antioxidant that will increase cardiovascular protection.
2. Sardines: Also packed with omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil; it will boost your positive cholesterol levels and will reduce the risk of a sudden heart attack for people who have had heart attacks in the past.
3. Liver: Your heart needs some fats for the heart, liver contains those fats.
4. Walnuts: These contain a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids, fiver, vitamin E, and folate, all promoting healthy hearts.
5. Almonds: Just like walnuts, these are packed with omega-3 fatty acids and provide a good alternative for people who do not like walnuts.
6. Oatmeal: If you’re always struggling to decide what to eat for breakfast, oatmeal might be the best solution; it is known for reducing cholesterol.
7. Blueberries: These berries are packed with resveratrol and flavonoids, which can help prevent coronary disease. You can actually put these in your oatmeal to gain even more nutrients.
8. Green Tea: We all like to get that caffeine fix, but why not try drinking something that is even healthier for your body? Green tea is filled with flavonoids, antioxidants that will help reduce blood clots.
9. Soy Milk: This contains the organic compound isoflavone, which has been known to reduce cholesterol. It is low in fat and, unlike animal milk, it contains zero percent cholesterol.
10. Raisins: If you want to lower your blood pressure, grab some raisins. The reason they lower your blood pressure is because they contain potassium, which helps lower hypertension and increases immune-boosting antioxidants.
“The American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations,” American Heart Association web site, January 22, 2015; http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/The-American-Heart-Associations-Diet-and-Lifestyle-Recommendations_UCM_305855_Article.jsp.
“Heart Disease Facts,” CDC web site; http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm, last accessed May 5, 2015.
Hastings, D., “The 25 best foods for your heart,” Prevention web site, January 22, 2013; http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/best-foods-heart-health?slide=1.