Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in women worldwide. It’s more deadly than all forms of cancer combined and kills approximately one female every minute. Yet, few women recognize the signs of a heart attack and many don’t realize how effective diet and lifestyle choices are in preventing the disease. It’s estimated that upwards of 75% of heart disease can be avoided by eating well, staying active and kicking the habit.
Major risk factors for cardiovascular disease include smoking, type II diabetes, elevated blood pressure, raised “bad” cholesterol levels, obesity and inactivity. As we age, it’s even more important than ever to assess our risk and take the necessary precautions to protect our heart and arteries. Take this survey to estimate your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 20 years.
For high-risk individuals, medication may be required. But, for most of us, the first line of defense and treatment should be a multifaceted approach that incorporates a change in diet and lifestyle. Follow the American Heart Association’s ABCs of heart attack prevention: avoid tobacco, become active, and choose good nutrition. Start to eliminate from your diet foods that are high in sugar and saturated fat, made from flour and/or contain partially hydrogenated oils. Replace these foods with vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, fish, poultry, low or no-fat dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, olive oil and whole intact grains. Doing so will not only improve your cholesterol but may also help you lose weight, reverse or prevent type II diabetes, lower your blood pressure and significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.
Say goodbye to refined breakfast cereals. Choose unsweetened steel cut oatmeal instead. Oatmeal contains beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that’s been shown to lower “bad” cholesterol, improve insulin resistance and assist with weight control. Top it off with berries, 2 tablespoons of nuts or seeds and a little cinnamon for a balanced and heart healthy breakfast. According to Harvard School of Public Health, eating whole grains is associated with a 15% lower risk of mortality, particularly from heart disease.
This juicy, citrus fruit is a good source of pectin, another type of soluble fiber that is associated with lower cholesterol. Forgo your morning OJ for the fruit itself to reap the benefits.
Substitute your butter with this Mediterranean diet staple. It’s loaded with monounsaturated fat and antioxidants that protect your blood vessels and heart. Drizzle 1.5 teaspoons on your salad, mist your veggies with it before roasting, or even stick a little in the refrigerator mixed with your favorite herbs and use the solid form as a spread for your whole grain toast.
Filled with fiber, flavor, and heart healthy fat, this green fruit, yes it’s a fruit, is the perfect substitute for cheese on your omelet, croutons in your salad and ketchup on your turkey burger. Add a quarter to your protein rich smoothie for a creamy and delicious drink.
Salmon and sardines are loaded with anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids that lower triglycerides and bad cholesterol while keeping your arteries supple. Canned, fresh or frozen these heart friendly proteins should be a staple in your diet. Aim for 2-3 4oz servings a week at a minimum or take fish oil capsules. Click here to see the high quality brand I recommend.
Replace your saturated fat-filled meats and cheeses with these fiber-rich legumes to protect your heart, lower your cholesterol and keep your blood sugar stabilized. They’re incredibly versatile and can be eaten at any meal. Throw them into an omelet with onions, peppers, Napa cabbage and salsa for a quick breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Pick a handful of pistachios over pretzels or other chips for your afternoon snack. These delicious nuts are full of fiber and plant compounds that block the absorption of dietary cholesterol in your blood, a must for protecting your arteries.
Swap that iceberg lettuce with this incredibly nutritious green. Napa cabbage is low in calories and high in nutrients, including potassium. Diets rich in potassium (calcium and magnesium too) are associated with lower blood pressure. Try it in a slaw, eat it raw, or use it as a wrap. Fill it with beans, hummus and tomatoes or even leftover slices of chicken, mustard and apple. Don’t stop there — add it to soups, frittatas and stir-fries
Most of the above mentioned foods are high in fiber, an essential carbohydrate that protects your heart and your waistline. To learn more about the role fiber plays in weight loss, read my January column.
For help with your diet, contact Jean Varney at [email protected]. All consultations are conducted over the phone.
This article is for informational purposes only, is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and is not a substitute for medical advice.
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