Heart disease and a heart-healthy diet
You can reduce your chance of developing atherosclerosis, the blocked arteries that cause heart disease, with a heart-healthy diet. If the artery-clogging process has already begun, you can slow the rate at which it progresses.
While this is very important for everyone at risk of atherosclerosis, it is even more important if you have had a heart attack or a procedure to restore blood flow to your heart or other areas of your body, such as angioplasty, bypass surgery, or carotid artery surgery. If you follow prevention advice you can protect your arteries from becoming narrow again.
Feed your heart well
Feeding your heart well is a powerful way to reduce or even eliminate some risk factors. Adopting a heart-healthy diet can help reduce total and LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol), lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar, and reduce body weight. While most diets just tell you what you CAN'T eat (usually your favourite foods!), the most powerful dietary advice helps you focus on what you CAN eat. In fact, heart disease research has shown that adding heart-healthy foods is just as important as cutting back on others.
Here are nine ways that your diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease:
- Eat more fish. Fish is a good source of protein and other nutrients. It also contains Omega-3 fatty acids (particularly oily fish like mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna), which may help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
- Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and pulses. These beautiful and delicious wonders of nature may be one of the most powerful strategies in fighting heart disease.
- Choose fat calories wisely.
- Limit your total fat grams.
- Eat a bare minimum of saturated fats and trans fats (for example, fats found in butter, margarine, salad dressing, fried foods, snack foods, sweets, and desserts).
- When you use added fat, use fats high in monounsaturated fats (for example, fats found in olive and peanut oil).
- Eat a variety - and just the right amount -- of protein-rich foods. Commonly eaten protein foods (meat and dairy products) are among the main culprits in increasing heart disease risk. Reduce this dietary risk factor by balancing the amount of animal, fish, and vegetable protein you include in your diet.
- Limit cholesterol consumption. Dietary cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels, especially in high-risk people. Limiting dietary cholesterol has an added bonus: you'll also cut out saturated fat, as cholesterol and saturated fat are usually found in the same foods.
- Feed your body regularly. Skipping meals often leads to overeating. Eating five to six mini-meals is the best way to control blood sugar, burn fat calories more efficiently, and regulate cholesterol levels. Get energy by eating complex carbohydrates (whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain breads) and limit simple carbohydrates (fizzy drinks, sugar, sweets). If you have high cholesterol, these simple carbohydrates exacerbate the condition and may increase your risk of heart disease.