DEATHS related to cardiovascular disease are among the highest in the world. But nutritionist Chloë-Faith Perez says that we can see a significant reduction in the number of people who suffer from cardiovascular diseases with the right combination of a heart-healthy diet and a change in lifestyle.
“The best way to a healthy heart is through healthy diet and exercise. There are a number of superfoods that are beneficial to the heart that when coupled with exercise could improve the health of your heart,” Perez advised.
She said that strategies to a more heart-healthy diet include:
What the heart needs
In general, the heart is healthiest when you consume more low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and lean protein and fewer high-calorie, high-sodium, refined, processed or fast foods.
Choose a low-fat diet
You should limit consumption of saturated and trans fats in the diet. Some foods that are high in saturated and trans fats include fast food, fatty beef and other kinds of meat such as pork, or foods that are rich in margarine, butter, or shortening. To reduce your risk of trans and saturated fats in your diet, you can replace fatty meat with fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These can lower triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood which, when the levels in the body are high, may raise the risk of heart disease, especially in women). You may also eat skinless poultry. High levels of unsaturated and trans fat in the diet can result in atherosclerosis, which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Increase your intake of polyunsaturated fats
Polyunsaturated fats, found in certain fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds, also are good choices for a heart-healthy diet. When consuming fats, you should opt for these healthier sources.
Choose healthy sources of protein
Legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) are good sources of protein and contain less fat and no cholesterol, making them good substitutes for meat. Substituting plant protein for animal protein will reduce your intake of fats and cholesterol.
Reduce sodium in the diet
Reducing sodium is an important part of a heart-healthy diet. High levels of sodium in the diet will result in the body retaining more water. This stored water raises your blood pressure and puts a strain on your kidneys, arteries, heart, and brain. In addition, when the body retains water it can worsen the fluid build-up that happens with heart failure.
Perez recommends that we aim for 20-30 minutes of exercise three to five times per week. This exercise should be mainly cardio such as running, walking, jogging and skipping. This will keep your heart rate elevated for an extended period, which strengthens the heart muscles over time.