Diet And Lifestyle Changes A Move Towards a Healthy Heart

By Ritika Samaddar in Nutrition And Dietetics , Dietetics

Aug 22 , 2014 | 4 min read


Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) affect the functioning of the Heart. Abnormal Heart rhythms, Congenital Heart Disease, Coronary Artery, Heart attack, stroke, and other related diseases are considered as CVDs.

Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) are the most common cause of death worldwide. World Health Organisation reported an estimated 17.9 million people died from CVDs in 2016, representing 31% of all deaths globally. Certain behavioural risk factors including tobacco use, unhealthy diet, obesity, and physical inactivity addresses most CVDs. Heart diseases are one of the leading causes of death in India.

Coronary artery disease strikes Indians and south Asians four times more than any other race in the world. India will beat 60% of the worlds CAD burden. That's nearly four times more than its share of the global population. To top it all recent analysis of cardiovascular risk in Indians showed that we get heart attack at an earlier age compare to the west.

So we need to chalk out a protection against the risk factors: high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, and sedentary lifestyle. You have done nothing to move towards a healthy heart if you haven't taken a close look at your diet, science says.

Dietary and lifestyle changes can reduce the risk and prevent Heart Diseases.

Watch your weight

Maintaining an ideal weight helps to reduce the risk of heart disease especially too much fat- especially around the waist, increases the risk of heart ailment. In addition to eating a balanced diet it is very important to eat at regulated time i.e. breakfast within one hour of rising, eat every three hours, and stop eating three hours before bedtime.

Eating small frequent meals increases BMR (baseline metabolic rate), increases energy levels, and decreases appetite, among other things. The best way to lose weight is to eat through the day. Skipping meals will only increase your chances of over-eating later in the day. Instead, eating five to six small meals through the day is an excellent strategy to lose weight. Most people try to save calories by skipping meals but don't realize that they drastically slow their metabolism down by not eating. That's why six small meals is an excellent way to keep your metabolism burning high.

Choose good fats over bad and ugly fats

Include good fats in your diet for a Healthy Heart. Add more healthy fats, high on monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids such as olive oil, canola oil, rice bran oil, peanut oil or mustard oil. Intake of saturated fats including butter, ghee, red meat, etc. should be restricted.

MUFA are good fats. Get them in Olive, canola, soya, and mustard oil; nuts (walnuts and almonds) and seeds (flaxseeds). They reduce 'bad' LDL cholesterol and increase 'good' HDL cholesterol. Combination of oils works the best so rotate your oil on monthly basis such that you get both PUFA and MUFA in the required amount.

Be smart about carbohydrates

All carbohydrates are not equal- Studies have shown that high glycemic index carbohydrates have more drastic effects on cholesterol levels and the risk of developing heart disease than low glycemic index carbohydrates. Epidemiologic studies show that a diet based on carbohydrate-rich foods with a low-GI, high-fiber content may protect against diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Choose complex carbohydrates and avoid refined carbohydrates. Always opt for unrefined whole grains such as whole wheat, Dalia, brown rice, barley, oats, and vegetables over sugar-loaded soft drinks, white bread, pasta, and processed foods.

Up your anti-oxidants- Anti-oxidants such as vitamins C, E, beta carotene, and bioflavonoid occur naturally in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. They protect the heart from free radical damage. Snacking on nuts - A handful of nuts (almonds and walnuts) every day in your diet helps to reduce the LDL due to its high antioxidant vitamin E content.

Focus on Fibres

A Fibre-rich diet lowers bad cholesterol and provides protection against Heart disease. It also helps to lose weight. Both soluble fibres (eg. barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts, apples, berries) and insoluble fibres (eg. fruits and vegetables) should be part of the diet.

Trans fats are a strict no in your healthy diet, these are the hidden ingredient in your food which needs to be avoided as it not only increases LDL( bad) but at the same time decreases the HDL(good) cholesterol. So read labels, avoid re-heating of oil and avoid the hydrogenated oil as they are the sources of trans fat.

Fill up with fibre- Fiber should form an integral part of your diet but the type of fiber which helps to reduce cholesterol is your Soluble fibres which are found in beans, legumes, and whole grains. The soluble fiber in diets high in low glycemic index carbohydrates binds to bile acid and excrete it undigested. This may help to lower bad cholesterol levels. Eating 3 grams of soluble oat fibre each day has been shown to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

Get moving

Eating a healthy diet and physical activity helps to maintain blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and improve Heart Health. Active exercise including brisk walking, and jogging for at least 30 minutes daily is helpful.

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