Nutrition Expert- Saba Shaikh, Practicing Clinical Nutritionist, Mumbai.
Your heart is the center of your cardiovascular system. It is involved in many of the daily functions that bring your body to life. So having a healthy heart is vital to your overall health.
Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women—and claims more lives than all forms of cancer combined. Being diagnosed with cardiovascular disease can also take an emotional toll, affecting your mood, outlook, and quality of life. While weight control and regular exercise are critical for keeping your heart in shape, the food you eat can matter just as much. In fact, along with other healthy lifestyle choices, a heart-healthy diet may reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke by 80%.
No single food can make you magically healthy, so your overall dietary pattern is more important than specific foods. Instead of fried, processed food, packaged meals, and sugary snacks, a heart-healthy diet is built around “real,” natural food—fresh from the ground, ocean, or farm. (2)
Tips for Healthy Heart
When you quit smoking, your risk of heart attack and stroke decreases almost straight away.
Smoking damages the blood vessels leading to your heart, brain and other parts of your body. This makes you four times more likely to die of heart attack or stroke and three times more likely to die from sudden cardiac death. (5)
The foods you eat can affect your weight, your hormones, and the health of your organs, including your heart. Eating a healthy diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Choose healthy fats. Despite what you may have heard, some fats are actually good for you. When you use fats for cooking, choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil. Avocados are also a good source of monounsaturated fat. Polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids are also healthy choices. Polyunsaturated fats are found in nuts and seeds. Omega-3 fats are found in fish, such as tuna and salmon. In general, you should try to avoid trans fats. Trans fats are usually found in processed foods and snacks such as crackers or snack cakes. To see whether a food contains trans fats, look for the words “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredient label.
Go whole-grain. Whole-grain breads or pastas are higher in fiber and complex carbohydrates. Choose them instead of white breads or regular pastas for sandwiches and meals. (4)
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. They contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are good for your body. They also add flavor and variety to your diet. A diet full of a variety of fruit and vegetables is linked to healthier hearts and a lower risk of heart disease.(5)
Prepare meat healthfully. Baking, broiling, and roasting are the healthiest ways to prepare meat and poultry. Trim any outside fat or skin before cooking. Lean cuts can be pan-broiled or stir-fried.
Don’t forget beans. Dry beans, peas, and lentils offer protein and fiber. Once in a while, try substituting beans for meat in a favorite recipe, such as lasagna or chili.
Choose low-fat dairy. Go for fat-free or low-fat versions of milk, yogurt, and cheese products.
Pack in protein. Eat protein–rich foods, including fish, lean meats, skinless poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds, and beans. (4)
Go fish. Eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can also help ward off heart disease. Many fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, and herring, are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Try to eat fish at least twice a week, suggests the AHA. (6)
Use herbs and spices instead of salt: Eating too much salt is bad for your heart. The sodium in salt can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. (5)
Try a diet. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan is a heart-healthy approach that lowers blood pressure and bad cholesterol in your blood. Or try the Mediterranean Diet for another healthy approach to eating. (4)
Exercise makes your heart stronger. This helps it pump more blood with each heartbeat. This delivers more oxygen to your body. With more oxygen, your body functions more efficiently.
Exercise can also lower blood pressure. It reduces your risk of heart disease and reduces levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol). Bad cholesterol can clog the arteries and can cause a heart attack. At the same time, exercise can raise levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol). HDL helps protect against a heart attack by carrying fatty deposits out of the arteries.
Aerobic exercise causes you to breathe more deeply. It makes your heart work harder to pump blood. Aerobic exercise also raises your heart rate (which burns calories). Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, running, dancing, swimming, and bicycling.
If your doctor recommends medication, take as prescribed
The best way to reach your treatment goals and enjoy the benefits of better heart health is to follow the advice of your doctor or pharmacist and take medicines exactly as directed. (5)
Diet and exercise are an important part of your heart health. If you don’t eat a good diet and you don’t exercise, you are at increased risk of developing health problems. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. These increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. (4)
A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease. It’s not as hard as you may think! Remember, it’s the overall pattern of your choices that counts. Make the simple steps below part of your life for long-term benefits to your health and your heart. (3)
A heart healthy diet is a pattern of food you eat over days, weeks and months.
Regular physical activity reduces your risk of having a heart attack or developing heart disease.
Quitting smoking decreases your risk of heart attack and stroke almost straight away.
Understanding and controlling cholesterol. (5)