What you need to know about heart disease

Heart disease is the most common cause of death in many developed countries, and one of the main risk factors, are obesity. In the last couple of years, though, our knowledge about heart-disease has changed a bit. Here’s an update on the latest you need to know to prevent heart disease:

What was known about heart disease in the past Full Instagram?

  • It seemed that heart disease was caused by high cholesterol.
  • The diet to prevent heart disease was low in fat, high in polyunsaturated fats and high in carbohydrates.
  • Previously people were told to avoid saturated fat (found in food like meat and butter) and rather eat foods high in omega-6-fats (mostly vegetable oils such as soybean, corn and sunflower).
  • The risk factors for heart disease are:
  1. high blood pressure
  2. diabetes
  3. smoking
  4. high LDL levels
  5. low HDL levels
  6. being overweight or obese
  7. being inactive
  8. having a family history of heart disease and/or high cholesterol
  9. excessive alcohol use
  10. being post-menopausal
  11. high uric acid levels
  12. high homocysteine levels
  13. stress and poor socio-economics

What are the latest findings on heart disease?

  • The main cause for heart disease seems to start when there is damage or inflammation of coronary arteries (blood vessels in and around the heart).
  • Evidence seems to show that if there isn’t inflammation in these blood vessels, , cholesterol would not become trapped nor build up in the walls of blood vessels.
  • The main cause, then, is not the cholesterol, but rather the blood vessel’s health.
  • Plaque builds up where arteries are damaged and over time, plaque can harden or rupture.
  • The inflammation seems to be caused by a diet with simple, highly processed (refined) carbohydrates and omega-6 fats.
  • The best diet suggested now, is one where the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 3:1 (preferably, even 1:1.
  • Being overweight or obese from eating these types of foods not only contributes to heart disease, but also
  1. Diabetes
  2. Hypertension
  3. Stroke
  4. Alzheimer’s disease.

What should we change, then, to prevent heart disease?

Worldwide, some new dietary guidelines are potentially anticipated during 2015.

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In the interim, we can all love our hearts by doing the following:

  1. Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week. Studies show 10 minutes of exercise three times a day on most days of the week, is also beneficial. Exercise is the single most important thing one can do to prevent heart disease: if you don’t, your chances of getting heart disease doubles!
  2. Quit smoking if you do. Never start smoking if you don’t. Try tp avoid places where other peoples smoke.
  3. Lose weight, especially the fat around one’s waist.
  4. Eat complex, low glycaemic index carbohydrates. These include fresh fruit and vegetables (rather than bread, pasta, rice and cereals). Fresh fruit and vegetables are also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, anti-oxidants and soluble fibre.
  5. Increase your omega-3 fat intake by eating oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, pilchards) as well as walnuts, pumpkin seeds and grapeseed oil.
  6. Use olive oil – follow the Mediterranean way of eating! Increase your monounsaturated fat intake – eat nuts, seeds and olives. Aim to eliminate or greatly reduce your intake of omega-6 fats.
  7. Avoid fast foods – these may have been prepared with trans fats or hydrogenated fats.
  8. Avoid processed meals – these often contain MSG and hidden sugars.
  9. Avoid sweetened fizzy drinks. Avoid foods containing fructose as the sugar ingredient.
  10. Drink alcohol only in moderation – red wine has beneficial effects for your heart. Too much alcohol, however, is a known risk factor for heart disease.
  11. Don’t eat too much salt – to reduce your risk for high blood pressure.
  12. Don’t eat too much sugar – especially hidden sugars in fruit juice and sweetened yoghurts. Slowly reduce your added sugar in beverages such as tea and coffee – over a period of time, you’ll get used to less sugar!
  13. Aim for a fibre intake of 20-25 grams per day.

Remember, you only have one heart and one life… make a worthwhile investment in your own well-being!