Importance of Diet for Heart Health
Your heart health depends greatly on your diet. Poor diet which is high in fats and calories contributes to overweight and increases the risk of high cholesterol and diabetes, while excessive salt consumption has been shown to be a major contributor to high blood pressure. All the mentioned conditions are among the most common causes of heart disease which is why a healthy diet can dramatically reduce the risk of heart problems and keep your heart health.
Most health experts recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet, commonly known simply as the DASH diet. It bases on consumption of foods which are low in cholesterol, fats, sugar and salt and includes lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products and other heart healthy foods. It is not a restrictive diet, however, it does limit consumption of foods which are high in saturated fats and trans fats which are found in processed and refined foods, meat and other full fat food products.
However, not all fats harm your heart. The so-called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have even been shown to promote heart health and should therefore be included in every heart healthy diet. Examples include fatty fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, flaxseed oil, etc. Especially important is to make sure that you obtain enough omega-3 fatty acids, the best source of which is fatty fish. You are recommended to eat fish at least once per week. If you do not like fish, however, you can also use fish oil or omega-3 supplements. However, keep in mind that heart healthy fats are high in calories and eat foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in limited amounts.
By following a heart healthy diet such as the mentioned DASH diet, you can expect to lower your blood pressure, increase the levels of the so-called good cholesterol which in turn lowers the bad cholesterol, reduce the risk of blood clots and diabetes as well as lose weight/maintain a healthy body weight, especially if you combine a healthy diet with regular exercise.
In addition to paying attention to what you eat, you are also recommended to pay attention to what you drink. Research shows that a glass of red wine a day may help prevent cardiovascular disease, however, excessive alcohol consumption has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. Therefore you are recommended to drink no more than one drink a day if you are a woman and no more than two drinks if you are a man.
Lastly, it is also highly important not to smoke or quit if you do because nicotine and other compounds in tobacco have been shown to cause damage to the blood vessels and increase the risk of atherosclerosis. The research shows that smokers are twice more likely to develop heart disease than non-smokers. If you are having difficulties giving up cigarettes, ask your doctor for advice and smoking cessation aids.