What Dietary Changes Can I Make to Reduce My Heart Disease Risk?

          Heart disease accounts for more than 17 million deaths worldwide. It is the number one leading cause of death. Taking care of heart health not only prevents heart diseases but also leads to a more fulfilling life. Heart is a vital organ and just like all other vital organs, it needs to be in a healthy state. Living in the modern world has made many diseases easily diagnosed and treated compared to medicine of the past. However, heart disease may not be easily treated when it is in an advanced stage. The good thing is, understanding the risk for heart diseases can help a person take preventative measures such as making dietary changes.

          Heart diseases refer to the many types of diseases affecting the hearts. The common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease. Symptoms of heart disease are often not so obvious unless it already causes great damage to the heart or severe form of heart diseases such as heart failure. Common symptoms associated with heart diseases are heart attack such as chest pain, palpitations and shortness of breath with swelling of the limbs or abdomen. These symptoms can be very disturbing and cause great discomfort. In some instances, it can even lead to life-threatening conditions.

          In order to prevent such symptoms from occurring, understanding risk factors for heart disease can help prevent possible heart diseases. The key risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and smoking. Other risk factors are diabetes, obesity and bad lifestyle such as unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. When the key risk factors are present, a person is already at risk for heart diseases and with combination of the other risk factors, increases the risk for heart diseases significantly.

          Making lifestyle changes is the best way to reduce risk for heart diseases, especially if you already know that you are at risk for heart diseases. An active lifestyle of doing exercise or being physically active for at least 150 minutes per week by doing moderate activity such as brisk walking and swimming is enough to keep the heart healthy. Apart from this, making dietary changes can greatly have a good impact on heart health. Thus, what dietary changes can you do to reduce risk for heart disease? Below are examples of what kind of dietary changes should be done:

1)    Eating a balanced meal according to the food pyramid and packed with fruits and vegetables. Don’t forget wholegrains.

2)    Eat a variety of healthy proteins such as fish and seafood. Eat lean poultry and lean red meat. Trim all visible fat from meat and remove skin from poultry.

3)    Avoid refined carbohydrates, food and beverages with added sugar, salt, sodium and trans-fat.

4)    Choose food low in sodium by avoiding processed bread, packaged snacks, canned good and fat-food meals.

5)    Avoid eating food with saturated or trans-fat. Try opting for healthy fats such as unsaturated fat instead as this can improve heart health and aid in weight loss. 

6)    Substitute salt with herbs and spices instead to bring flavour to daily meals. A person should only have salt in their meal which contains sodium of less than 2300 mg per day or equivalent to 1 teaspoon of table salt.

          Dietary changes revolved around healthy eating. By making sure to practise healthy eating, it is enough to reduce the risk for heart diseases. It might not be easy to actually be consistent with healthy eating habits as it is much easier to lean on unhealthy food but with great perseverance, this is not impossible. Aside from reducing risk for heart disease, healthy eating can actually lead to a person becoming healthy overall both physically and mentally. This is because healthy eating itself contains all the needed nutrients for the body to perform its function optimally. The key for dietary changes to make a significant effect on a person’s life is consistency and adherence to healthy eating patterns. Study shows that those who adhere most to healthy eating patterns have 14% to 21% lower risk for heart diseases compared to those who do adhere least.

          Besides healthy eating as dietary changes, incorporating food that is good for the heart such as eating oily fish once a week such as sardines and salmon can improve the cholesterol level. This is because the omega-3 fatty acids in the fish helps to reduce the bad fats such as triglycerides and increase the good fats known as HDL-cholesterol. You might want to eat more food containing vitamin E such as whole grain products and avocados can help lower the bad cholesterol such as LDL-cholesterol. Drinking tea may improve the HDL cholesterol level and even reduce the blood sugar levels which is also a risk for heart diseases. Black and green tea should be the best way to go and yes, unsweetened and plain as possible.

          In essence, dietary changes not only lower the risk for heart diseases but also improve a person’s overall health. It is indeed true that “you are what you eat”. In fact, there is even a saying “all disease begins in the gut” as said by Hippocrates. This shows that food plays an important role in human life and especially in aspects of health.

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