Keep your heart in shape

Salma S. Khan, The Good Guru Nutritionist

23rd February 2017

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) results in abnormal function of the heart or blood vessels that may lead to heart attacks, angina and stroke. The World Health Organisation reports that CVD, more commonly known as heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Heart disease may manifest as a result of genetic predisposition and environmental factors including stress, leading a sedentary lifestyle and consuming an unhealthy diet. The good news is that CVD may be prevented and managed by carrying out regular exercise, adopting stress management techniques (e.g. yoga), and weight control through eating a healthy diet.

Tip 1 – Eat ‘Good’ Fats: Omega-3 fatty acids found in food items such as walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and cold-water fish such as salmon have been associated with reduced CVD risk due to the role they may play in reducing inflammation. Supplementing with and/or increasing omega-3 rich foods may lower blood pressure, as well as decrease the risk of stroke and heart attack when combined with an overall healthy diet. On the other hand, consumption of modern day processed fats known as trans or hydrogenated fat has been linked with increased risk of heart disease. Scientists reveal that these fats may block the process of healthy essential fats in the body, thus trans-fats found in margarine, cakes, pastries, ready meals and fast food are best avoided altogether. 

Tip 2 – Top Up On Magnesium: Like every other organ in the body, the heart relies on a steady stream of oxygen and nutrients. Researchers suggest that higher levels of magnesium in the blood may be beneficial for cardiovascular health. This mineral is a natural sedative that relaxes muscles, and is thought to improve the delivery of oxygen to the heart’s cells, resulting in better heart function.Food sources of magnesium include green vegetables (e.g. spinach), some seeds (e.g. sesame seeds) and nuts (e.g. almonds).

Tip 3 – Consume Co-enzyme Q10: Researchers suggest that this powerful antioxidant is required for good cardiovascular function. Further, it has been reported that those with heart failure tend to have lower levels of CoQ10 in their bodies, and replenishing this antioxidant may improve heart function. Food sources of CoQ10 include soybeans, pistachios, hazelnuts, and fish such as sardines and mackerel.

Tip 4 – Vitamin E For Heart Health: The antioxidant Vitamin E may be beneficial for heart health since it is thought to protect artery walls by keeping cholesterol levels to a minimum. This fat-soluble vitamin is also thought to keep the blood thin by preventing blood platelets from clumping together. Vitamin E rich foods include nuts (e.g. almonds) and green leafy vegetables (e.g. kale), and vegetable oils (e.g. safflower and sunflower oils).

Tip 5 - Understand Cooking Methods: Understanding which types of cooking methods are healthiest may help an individual prevent or manage CVD. Using low-fat methods of cooking (e.g. baking, poaching, steaming and stir frying) may help prevent the intake of excess fat, and thus help with weight management and optimising nutrient intake.

Tip 6 - Reduce Stress: Chronic stress may set the stage for inflammatory diseases such as CVD. According to research conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, optimistic people tend to benefit from improved cardiovascular health. Thus adopting stress management techniques such as positive thinking, taking time out for relaxation and exercise may be beneficial.

As with all other chronic illnesses, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origin behind disease onset, and no one person is the same. Nutritional practitioners increasingly see client’s who require tailored strategies to help promote long-term health based on their individual requirements. Research shows that this may be a more effective and sustainable approach to promoting optimal health in the long term.

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