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Preventing Heart Disease: Healthy Living Habits

Preventing Heart Disease: Healthy Living Habits

Every year, about 735,000 American have a heart attack. Of these, more than a half-million, or 525,000, are experiencing their first heart attack. Additionally, 210,000 people annually have another heart attack, after a previous cardiac event.

Let’s start out with some cold, hard facts:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people of most ethnicities in the United States, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and whites.
  • About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. every year. That’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women
  • Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing more than 370,000 people annually.

But there is good news in all these alarming statistics. By living a healthy lifestyle, you can lower your risk for heart disease and heart attack.

A healthy lifestyle includes the following:

  1. Eating a healthy diet
  2. Maintaining healthy weight
  3. Getting enough physical activity
  4. Avoiding smoking or using other forms of tobacco
  5. Limiting alcohol use

For this blog, I want to discuss with you your nutrition and a healthy diet.  Nutrition is a critical component to human health.  Poor diet is linked to nearly half of the cardiometabolic deaths (or those associated with heart disease, diabetes or stroke).

It is reported that most clinicians remind their patients of the most important diet they should be following. Yet a recent study suggests that a substantial portion of deaths in the U.S. are due to heart disease, stroke and diabetes associated with a suboptimal diet.

Having a less-than-healthy diet includes ingesting highly processed meats; having low seafood-related Omega-3 fats; not eating enough vegetables and fruits and drinking a large number of sugar-sweetened beverages.

On the other end of the spectrum, increase your intake of specific minimally-processed foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and vegetable oils in order to decrease the incidence of diet-related cardiovascular death.

According to a recently published study in “Metabolism,” an estimated 45.4 percent of all cardiometabolic deaths (or deaths due to heart disease, stroke and Diabetes Mellitus) were associated with suboptimal intakes of 10 dietary factors.  Consumption of 10 foods/nutrients associated with Cardiometabolic diseases include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts/seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Unprocessed red meats
  • Processed meats
  • Sugar sweetened beverages (SSBMeats)
  • Polyunsaturated fats
  • Seafood omega-3 fats
  • Sodium

The largest number of diet-related cardiometabolic disease deaths are related to high sodium intake.

During office visits, I always spend some time discussing the diet and nutrition with my patients.

There are few tips which picking out the right diet.

  1. Choose foods which are as close to their original natural states as possible.  This makes the most significant difference in long-term health and longevity.  It has been well-established that cardiometabolic death, which is death from heart disease, stroke and type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, is associated with suboptimal intakes of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds as well as omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association (AHA), recommends that at least one half of the plate be filled with fruits and vegetables.
  2. Avoid processed foods. The food should be as little processed as possible. A large portion of cardiometabolic deaths is linked to sugar-sweetened beverages and processed meats. Avoid processed foods and beverages such as packaged snacks, smoked meats, white flour, and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages.

Choosing a Diet: Plenty of diets are available. It seems that a “new diet “appears every season. The most successful diet is the one that patients can manage to stick with long-term. I have noticed that patients start a diet and are unable to adhere to it because of it being “very restrictive.” Most patients switch from one diet to another, which leads to yo-yo dieting. I personally recommend the Mediterranean Diet. It is well studied and has benefits that extend beyond losing weight. The basis of a healthy diet is its components. I recommend a diet with:

  • Increased vegetable and fruit intake
  • Consumption of foods that are high in fiber
  • Consumption of whole-grain foods
  • Increased water intake
  • Decreased intake of dietary sugar
  • Sufficient protein intake
  • Sufficient intake of healthy fats

One helpful rule out thumb is when you are preparing your plate, make sure one half of the plate contains vegetables; one-fourth of the plate has lean protein and one-fourth of your plate has high-fiber complex carbs, plus one serving of healthy fats.

Intermittent fasting yields weight loss similar to that achieved with continuous caloric restriction.  This is more applicable for patients who can eat larger, but less frequent, meals. They can try a modified strategy of limiting food intake to an 8-hour period each day and then fasting for 16 hours in-between.  Timing of food intake can also be helpful. Not eating after 2 p.m., except for cooked vegetables and vegetable soups, can help.

  1. Consumed healthy oils: AHA recommends that everybody eat fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Other beneficial fats include olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil, walnut oil and flaxseed oil.
  2. Avoid red meat: Consumption of red meat increases risk not only for cardiovascular diseases but also cancer and total mortality.  Substituting one serving of red meat per day with one serving of fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, whole grain and low-fat dairy decreases mortality risk by up to 20 percent.
  3. Consume fermented foods and probiotics: Recently, increased interest has been shown in probiotics, which contain microorganisms with confirmed gastrointestinal benefit.  They are found in natural foods such as yogurt but can also be taken in supplement form.

If you are interested in learning more about these ideas, I will be giving a free lecture from 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 27 in the LVMC Ocean’s Seven Café. My “Healthy Lifestyle, Healthy Heart” lecture is part of the Lompoc Hospital District Foundation’s Community Education lecture series.