MAY 01 (DNA) – While deaths due to heart disease have dropped comparatively in recent years, its still stands as one of the most common causes of deaths in the world.The good news is that we now know a ton about how to prevent cardiovascular disease, which includes both strokes and heart attacks.It’s clear that healthy eating and living can make a huge difference.
Following are some healthy options you should definitely be including in your diet to keep your ticker happy for decades to come.
A widely consumed beverage coffee promotes heart health. One study found a 10 to 15% lower risk of dying from heart disease or other causes in men and women who drank six or more cups of coffee a day. Other research has found that even two cups a day could lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke by 30%.
Salmon and other fatty fish such as sardines and mackerel are the superstars of heart-healthy foods. That’s because they contain copious amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, shown in studies to lower the risk of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries) and decrease triglycerides. Nutritionists recommend eating fish and preferably fatty fish at least twice a week.
Oatmeal is high in soluble fibre, which can lower cholesterol.It acts as a sponge in the digestive tract and soaks up the cholesterol so it is eliminated from the body and not absorbed into the bloodstream. It is recommended for avoiding instant oatmeal, which often contains sugar. Other whole grains such as bread, pasta and grits are also good for the heart as long as they still contain the entire grain.
Not just blueberries, but strawberries and other berries as well. According to a 2013 study, women aged 25 through 42 who ate more than three servings of blueberries and strawberries a week had a 32% lower risk of heart attack compared with those who ate less. Blueberries intake in the everyday diet may decrease blood pressure and dilate blood vessels.
Several studies have now shown that dark chocolate may benefit your heart, including one in 2012 that found that daily chocolate consumption could reduce nonfatal heart attacks and stroke in people at high risk for these problems. The findings applied only to dark chocolate, meaning chocolate that is made up of at least 60-70% cocoa. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids called polyphenols, which may help blood pressure, clotting, and inflammation. Unfortunately, milk chocolate and most candy bars don’t make the grade when it comes to protecting your heart.
Women who consume high amounts of the flavonoids found in oranges and grapefruits have a 19% lower risk of ischemic stroke (caused by a clot) than women who don’t get as much of these compounds. Citrus fruits are also high in vitamin C, which has been linked with a lower risk of heart disease. Try to avoid citrus juices that contain added sugar.
Soy products, including tofu and soy milk, are a good way to add protein to your diet without unhealthy fats and cholesterol. Soy products contain high levels of polyunsaturated fats (good for your health), fibre, vitamins, and minerals. What’s more, soy may reduce blood pressure in people who eat a diet high in refined carbohydrates. And compared with milk or other proteins, soy proteincan actually decrease LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
There’s no reason to shun potatoes because they’re white and look like a “bad” starch. As long as they’re not deep fried, potatoes can be good for your heart. They’re rich in potassium, which can help lower blood pressure. And they’re high in fibre, which can lower the risk for heart disease. They are definitely not a junk food or refined carbohydrate; potatoes have a lot of health benefits.
Like potatoes, tomatoes are high in heart-healthy potassium. Plus, they’re a good source of the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid that may help get rid of “bad” cholesterol, keep blood vessels open, and lower heart attack risk. And because they’re low in calories and low in sugar, they don’t detract from an already-healthy diet.
This includes almonds, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts and macadamia nuts, all of which contain good-for-your-heart fibre. They also contain vitamin E, which helps lower bad cholesterol. And some, like walnuts, are high in omega-3 fatty acids. People who consume nuts daily are leaner than people who don’t and leaner people are at a lower risk for heart problems. Look for varieties that don’t have a lot of added salt.
Because they come from plants, legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas are an excellent source of protein without a lot of unhealthy fat. One study found that people who ate legumes at least four times a week had a 22% lower risk of heart disease compared with those who consumed them less than once a week. And legumes may help control blood sugar in people with diabetes. Lowering blood sugar levels is key in helping people avoid diabetes complications, one of which is heart disease.
Extra virgin olive oil
People at high risk for heart disease who followed the Mediterranean diet (high in grains, fruits, vegetables) supplemented by nuts and at least four tablespoons a day of olive oil reduced their risk of heart attacks, strokes, and dying by 30%. Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats, which can help reduce both cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Olives themselves both green and black are another source of “good” fat.
A favourite in Asia, green tea has grown more popular in the West with its significant health benefits. A 2013 study found that people who drank four or more cups of green tea daily had a 20% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke compared with people who “seldom” imbibed the beverage
Broccoli, spinach and kale
When it comes to your health, you really can’t go wrong with vegetables. But green vegetables may give an extra boost to your heart. These are high in carotenoids, which act as antioxidants and free your body of potentially harmful compounds. They’re also high in fibre and contain tons of vitamins and minerals. Kale also has some omega-3 fatty acids.
Flax seeds as well as the ultra-chic (among the health conscious) chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids. That’s one reason they’re good for your heart. Another reason is their high fibre content. Plus, there are a million ways to enjoy them. Try them ground up with other heart-healthy foods, such as dried blueberries, cranberries, or oatmeal or even blended with soy milk and fruit to create a smoothie.
These soft, tasty fruits have a well-established reputation for providing the body and heart with healthy fats. Like olive oil, they’re rich in the monounsaturated fats that may lower heart disease risk factors, such as cholesterol. They’re also high in antioxidants and in potassium. They can be eaten on their own or blended into guacamole, perhaps with some heart-promoting tomatoes.
Pomegranates contain numerous antioxidants, including heart-promoting polyphenols and anthocyanins which may help stave off hardening of the arteries. One study of heart disease patients found that a daily dose of pomegranate juice over three months showed improvements in blood flow to the heart. Ultimately, though, it’s important to have variety in your diet. If you don’t like pomegranates or can’t afford them, reach for apples, which also contain plenty of health-promoting compounds.