Heart Disease is Most Easily Prevented with Proper Diet and Exercise
Believe it or not, the connection between nutrition and health hasn’t always been clear. Traditionally, Western Medicine practitioners believed that disease and illness were issues that could be only be addressed with medicine and healthcare. Today we know that a balanced diet is a core element to sustaining health, and recuperating it is key when our wellbeing has gone awry.
Heart disease is most easily prevented with proper diet and exercise. Your blood is what transports all of the elements that are broken-down forms of what you eat and drink. This blood goes through arteries, veins and capillaries before reaching the heart (all of which make up your circulatory system), where it is then pumped out again. This process distributes the nutrients to where they need to go throughout your body.
Having too much or too little of some things in our diet; however, can seriously affect our circulatory health. In this article, we will discuss which elements of your diet affect your heart health, and highlight 7 foods that can boost your heart health.
Heart Health Basics
Your lifestyle affects your heart health. The Heart Foundation has several recommendations to help ensure that your heart will be healthy for years to come:
- Do not smoke. Smoking is one of the biggest risks to your heart health.
- Be physically active. Break up the time you are sitting down, and engage in moderate, physical activity. Don’t worry about being an athletic all-star. It only takes 150 minutes of physical activity a week (or about 20 minutes a day) to get in the minimum amount of movement to encourage heart health.
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of heart disease.
- Manage blood pressure and cholesterol – both of these directly affect the circulatory system.
- Manage diabetes. If you have diabetes, make sure you are managing it adequately to prevent a heart attack or stroke.
- Look after your mental health. People with depression or who do not have a social support circle are more likely to experience heart issues.
- Enjoy a variety of nutritious foods. In addition to eating a lot of fruits, veggies and whole grains, avoid consuming too much salt, saturated and trans fats and alcohol. We will look more into diet in the next section.
7 Foods That Will Boost Your Heart Health
When it comes to nutrition, there are four main elements (among others) in certain foods that can boost your heart health – or even save your heart, some experts claim. These four elements are: minerals potassium and magnesium, dietary fiber, healthy fats (which can counteract unhealthy fats) and antioxidants (which come in the form of vitamins and phytonutrients, and some minerals as well).
The following foods are packed with either healthy fats, antioxidant vitamins and minerals or fiber (or a combination of the three!), and are low in salt and problematic fats, to help keep your heart in tip-top shape.
Foods to Eat for Heart Health
1. Black Beans
Black beans are packed with fiber that helps to lower blood HDL-cholesterol (aka “bad cholesterol”). Make beans at home, rather than buying them canned, to avoid extra sodium. Beans are also high in potassium and magnesium to help lower blood pressure.
2. Red Wine
Red wine has a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol, which has been identified as having powerful effects on the body to reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis. If you drink wine already, the American Heart Association says it is okay for you to drink a glass of red wine daily, and you will help reap the benefits of red wine antioxidants. Don’t overdo it, however! Drinking too much can result in a range of other negative effects on your health.
Salmon is packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, a polyunsaturated fatty acid (popularly known as a healthy fat) that has been known to help to reduce HDL cholesterol in the blood, therefore protecting against cardiovascular morbidity and overall mortality.
4. Olive oil
Olive oil contains heart-heathy monounsaturated fats, as well as polyphenols, or plant antioxidants. Both of these work together to reduce plasma lipid levels and reduce oxidative damage. Use small amounts of olive oil as salad dressing or cook with it on low heat.
5. Walnuts and Almonds
Walnuts and almonds are nuts with a high content of monounsaturated fats, magnesium and potassium, all of which play a role in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure – all good news for the heart.
6. Swiss Chard
Swiss chard, and other dark-leafy greens, are a must of anyone who is looking out for his or her heart health. Data analysis from the large-scale Nurse’s Health Study and Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study found clear evidence that consumption of fruits and vegetables, particularly green leafy vegetables and Vitamin-C rich fruits and vegetables has a protective effect against coronary heart disease.
Flaxseed is one of the foods with the most Omega-3 per serving. To really take advantage of flaxseed’s health benefits, grind up the seeds and integrate them into your everyday recipes (smoothies, soups, salads, oatmeal, etc.).
Even if you feel like you have nothing to worry about in terms of your heart health, remember that your heart is one of your most important organs, and it’s important to take good care of it. Many illnesses are preventable through a well-established heart-healthy diet that includes foods like those listed above. Making these foods central ingredients in your meals will help to preserve, or even improve, heart health in the short- and long-term.