How to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease with Diet
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of cardiovascular disease in the United States. Even more concerning, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the U.S.¹ Read on to learn how to reduce your risk of heart disease with diet.
CHD is often caused by atherosclerosis—the accumulation of plaque and fatty lipids in artery walls that leads to a thickening of artery walls. There are many conditions and lifestyle habits that exacerbate one’s risk for CHD. With proper nutrition and lifestyle factors, you may reduce your risk of developing this disease.
Risk Factors for Coronary Heart Disease
CHD has many risk factors. Unhealthy blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, insulin resistance, unhealthy diet, excessive stress, sleep apnea, lack of physical activity, family history, and metabolic syndrome all increase CHD risk.
Older age is also a risk factor. Men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55 are at increased risk of developing the disease.
Regardless of your age, it’s never too early to start thinking smart about your heart. Many of the risk factors are directly related to nutrition and exercise. With the right information, you can make healthful choices to protect your heart now and in the future. Read on for facts on a few key nutrients to watch.
Saturated and Trans Fats
As saturated fats have the strongest effect on blood cholesterol levels, limiting saturated fat intake is recommended for those looking to lower their risk of CHD. Replacing saturated fat with mono and polyunsaturated fats has been shown to generally lower LDL levels, thereby reducing the risk of CHD development.
Selecting vegetable oils instead of butters, and decreasing consumption of high-fat meat products, packaged foods, baked goods, cheeses, and whole-milk products can help you reduce saturated fat consumption.
Additionally, it’s wise for everyone interested in maintaining heart health to avoid trans fats. Trans fats have been linked to increased risk of heart disease² to such a striking degree that they have been banned from packaged foods in the United States. While a few cities have outlawed them in restaurants, many fast food chains, diners, and cafes still use trans-fat rich oils and products. Try to avoid them as much as possible.
Soluble, viscous fibers can inhibit cholesterol and bile absorption in the small intestine, thereby reducing LDL cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber can be found in oats, barley, legumes, and fruits. Soluble fiber in psyllium husk, a dietary supplement form of fiber is also known to be effective in lowering blood cholesterol.
Plant sterols have been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol levels by interfering with cholesterol and bile absorption. Look for them in fortified orange juices and margarines, or in dietary supplements.
Over-consuming sodium may elevate blood pressure. Some believe this may increase risks of developing of heart disease. Aim to consume less than 2,300 mg/day. Most Americans consume far too much, and a majority of it comes from packaged foods. Be sure to read labels, and try spice blends or low-sodium alternatives to your favorite condiments.
Some people are even more sensitive to the effects of sodium than others, and it is believed that reducing sodium has varying impacts on blood pressure for different people.
According to the U.S. FDA, adults with hypertension and prehypertension, for example, are advised to consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day³.
Potassium can counterbalance the effects of sodium, and help lower blood pressure4, leading to better heart health. The recommended daily amount of potassium is 4,700mg/day, an amount which most Americans fall short. Potassium is found in abundance in many fruits and vegetables. Bananas, squash, avocados, potatoes, kiwis, dried apricots, and pomegranates are all good sources. Coconut water also offers a significant amount of potassium, and is perfect to add to protein smoothies (such as those made with Nuzest Clean Lean Protein) for an extra boost.
Alcohol can raise blood pressure and contributes non-nutritive calories that may lead to weight gain. Moderate your alcohol intake and avoid binge drinking. Women are advised to consume no more than 4 drinks per week, while men are advised to consume less than 7 drinks per week.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, known as EPA and DNA, may benefit those with heart disease by lowering blood triglyceride levels.5 You can read more about omega-3 fatty acids here.
Regular aerobic activity can help you protect your heart health by lowering blood pressure, improving insulin sensitivity, lowering blood triglycerides, and aiding weight loss.
The American Heart Association recommends all healthy adults engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week.
The Bottom Line
Heart disease is a chronic illness that develops due to different genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. By avoiding smoking, excessive alcohol use, and by maintaining overall healthy eating and physical activity patterns, you can reduce your risk of heart disease.
As mentioned above, certain micro and macro nutrients can have a large additive effect for the development of heart disease. Watching your sodium intake while striving to increase potassium intake, increasing fiber and plant-sterol intake, and selecting more healthful sources of fat can all help you improve your heart health.
If this seems overwhelming, begin by striving to increase the fresh, whole, and plant-based foods you consume, and shifting away from fast and packaged foods.
Nuzest products can also help you meet nutrient gaps and provide a plant-based source of protein to assist your journey towards a more healthful diet and active lifestyle.References