A poor diet full of high-fat, sugary and salt-laden foods can contribute to weight gain, raise blood pressure and increase cholesterol levels all of which are risk factors for heart disease. A healthy diet is a balanced diet of protein (lean meat, fish, dairy products and vegetarian alternatives), unsaturated fat, carbohydrates (starchy foods such as bread and pasta), vegetables and fruit. It should be low in saturated fat, salt and sugar. A healthy diet can also increase the chances of survival after a heart attack by relieving pressure on the heart. The American Heart Association (AHA) has issued guidelines for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by dietary and other lifestyle practices. One of its general principles deals with reducing the risks of coronary disease by reducing bad cholesterol (LDL). The major components that raise LDL are saturated fats and high cholesterol foods. Dietary factors that lower bad cholesterol include vegetable oils rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and to a lesser extent soluble fiber and soya protein. Vegetable oils like safflower oil are rich in PUFA while oils like canola oil, olive oil and groundnut oil are rich in MUFA. Saturated fat should be minimized. Thus foods can really help have a healthy heart in a healthy body.
1. Eat regular meals: Starchy foods (carbohydrates) such as potatoes, pasta, bread, rice and cereals release their energy slowly because they need to be digested first. This means they don't cause high surges of sugar in your blood in the same way that sugary foods do. Keeping your blood sugar level constant helps control your appetite by making you feel satisfied for longer, and avoids dips that send you reaching for the biscuit tin. It also cuts down on overeating to compensate for hunger pangs when you skip a meal.
2. Cut down on high-sugar foods and drinks: Foods with sugar (sucrose or glucose) require little or no digestion for the body to absorb the sugars. This means they cause blood sugar to rise quickly after a meal and then drop again, which can trigger the desire for more food. Food and drinks with lots of added sugars are often high in calories, and calories equal energy for your body. The trouble is your body turns extra sugar that it doesn't need into fat. Sugary drinks (cordials, lemonade etc) are low in nutrients, which mean they add to your calorie count without making you feel full.
3. Reduce the amount of fat in your diet: While the body needs a certain amount of fat each day, the reality is we all tend to eat too much fat.
Reducing fat intake - especially hard fats from meat - is an essential part of managing cholesterol levels and lowering the risk of heart disease. Too much saturated fat from fatty meats, pastry, biscuits, cakes and full-fat dairy products can increase deposits in your arteries and lead to heart disease. One can reduce fat by grilling, steaming or micro-waving foods and buying lean cuts of meat - for example chicken breast without the skin When we fry or roast foods, avoid using saturated fats like butter and lard. Use oil that is high in 'good' fat such as olive oil, but use it sparingly.
4. Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day: A good intake of fruit and vegetables has been proven to reduce blood pressure and protect against conditions such as heart disease - it may even prevent some cancers. Try to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, and don't stick to the same ones. You need to eat different types to make sure you get a variety of vitamins and minerals. Adding a glass of pure fruit juice to your daily diet is a simple way to get one of your five portions.
5. Cut down salt intake: The more salt you eat, the higher will be your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease because it means your heart has to work harder to push blood around your body. And this extra pressure puts strain on your arteries that carry blood, which can weaken and clog with fatty deposits. You should eat no more than six grams of salt a day. But three quarters of the salt we eat comes from foods we buy, which means you can easily eat double this amount. A single slice of bread can contain 0.5g of salt. On food labels, the salt content is often given as grams of sodium. To convert sodium to grams of salt, multiply the quantity by 2.5. The daily limit is about 2.5g of sodium. You can reduce levels of salt in your diet by:
• Not adding salt to meals or when cooking
• Choosing foods that contain 0.1g sodium or less per 100g
• Switching everyday foods such as bread, cereal and tinned foods to reduced salt options
• Limiting salty foods such as crisps, salted nuts, bacon, cheese, pickles and smoked fish.
6. Moderate alcohol: Drinking up to two units of alcohol a day appears to have a beneficial effect on the risk of heart disease for men over the age of 40 and women who have gone through the menopause. It's thought that compounds within some alcoholic drinks, particularly red wine, mop up 'free radical' molecules that can cause tissue damage. But these benefits rapidly turn to negatives when higher levels of alcohol are consumed.
7. Eating Oily Fish: Some studies have shown that eating oily fish regularly can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and improve the chances of survival after a heart attack. It's thought omega-3 fatty acids may keep the heartbeat regular, reduce levels of triglycerides (fatty substances found in the blood) and prevent blood clots forming. Oily fish include fresh tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring. Pay attention to how the fish is prepared: many of these fish are smoked, which means they contain high levels of salt.
8. Weight loss : Being overweight puts extra strain on all your organs, including your heart. The foods that contribute most to weight gain are often high in fat, which can also play a role in heart disease. Our B.M.I (Body Mass Index) should be below 23. One should try to lose weight if the BMI is higher than 25. Aim to lose a steady rate of 0.5kg (1-2lb) per week. This means one needs to reduce the calorie intake by 3500 calories overall - 500 calories a day. Maintain a healthy weight. One of the major causes of heart disorders is obesity which leads to diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, each of which boosts the risk of heart disease. The best way to lose weight is to eat smaller amounts of food after periodic intervals. One should avoid second helpings and desserts.
9. Smoking: The cardiovascular benefits begin the moment a person quits smoking. The risk of heart attacks, stroke, lung diseases and cancers gets lowered with each passing day.
10. Exercise: The more one exercises, the better it is but the minimum amount should be equivalent to brisk walking for 30 minutes four to five times a week or two and a half hours every week. People, who do not have time for structured exercise, should stay physically active by walking around the house, using the stairs and gardening.
11. Control Diabetes mellitus: As many as 80% of people with diabetes can develop cardiovascular diseases, This metabolic disorder raises the chances of heart problems by roughly twice as much for women as for men. Type I Diabetes can be controlled with insulin while Type 2 or Adult onset Diabetes mellitus can be controlled through changes in the dietary pattern and exercise.
12. Control Hypertension: Exercise and a healthy diet with low salt intake can help control hypertension. Blood pressure lowering medicines also help.