Healthy Heart Food
Heart disease is the term used to describe hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and blood clots - which can result in blockage of the blood supply to the heart. The main symptom is angina, a pressure or pain in the chest, usually brought on by stress or exertion. The worst outcome is a heart attack.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death for New Zealanders – and most other Westerners. When combined with other complications of hardened arteries, such as strokes, heart disease accounts for over 40% of all deaths.
Can we do anything to avoid suffering these problems? YES !!
Diet is clearly a major contributing factor to heart disease.
(For other important lifestyle considerations, see below)
In 2004 the Ministry of Health published a study that looked
at the causes of all deaths in New
Zealand in 1997. Researchers found
that diet is the leading cause of death with over 8500
attributable deaths in 1997 - 30% of all deaths in that year. The majority of these were cardiovascular
deaths, with diabetes and cancer also contributing.
One of the main risk factors for heart disease is a diet
low in plant fibre and high in refined carboydrates (iincluding sugar and white flour), poor quality processed animal products, and fried foods. By tipping this balance
towards whole plant foods we not only protect and support the heart, we can
actually repair arterial damage that has already occurred. Even the healthiest body needs good food for
maintenance and repair. When there has
been damage there is an even greater need for proper nutrition.
A diet of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, good quality animal protein, legumes,
nuts and seeds can gradually replace excessive animal products, fried foods and
refined carbohydrates. This shift in diet often improves blood-fat balance, lower blood pressure and provide nutrition to the heart
Whole Foods with specific Benefits for the Heart and Circulation
For ideas on how to incorporate these foods into your diet
Broccoli, garlic, ginger, kale, Chinese greens,
parsley, red peppers, alfalfa sprouts.
Lemons, oranges, apricots, blueberries, raspberries, papaya,
Legumes, Grains, Nuts
Lentils, tempeh, chickpeas, tahini, almonds, oats, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds.
Oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, salmon and tuna (2 – 3 times per week) or high-quality fish oil tablets provide essential fatty acids, which support many vital functions.
Other lifestyle recommendations:
- Achieve a balanced intake of protein, complex carbohydrate and fat.
- Engage in regular aerobic exercise.
- Drink 6 – 8 glasses of water daily.
- Avoid excessive fatty red meats
- Avoid alcohol and coffee.
- Do not smoke.
- Eliminate fried foods and processed convenience foods.
- Avoid stress.
- Have more fun!
If you suspect you may be at risk from heart disease visit your doctor for a full assessment.