Article written by :
Senior Executive Dietitian
M.sc in Dietetics and Community Nutrition Management ( V.U.)
Certified Diabetic Educator
The term “heart disease” is often used interchangeably with the term “cardiovascular disease.”
According to WHO cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death globally. There are a group of disorder of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease and other conditions. Diet and life style play an important role maintaining heart health. Poor diet can contribute to a higher risk of heart disease and also trigger other risk factor that may lead to heart disease. Healthy eating pattern is more effective in lowering the risk of heart disease than any particular diet. Certain cardiac abnormalities e.g.-congenital heart diseases cannot be prevented, but lifestyle changes and dietary modification can help to prevent that.
Balanced diet for a healthy heart
- Moderate amount of carbohydrate. Mainly whole grain cereals like wheat, oats, millets, quinoa etc. These are the good sources of vitamins, mainly vitamin B complex which help to decrease cardio vascular risk and reduce morbidity and mortality associated with stroke. Vitamins and minerals also help cardiac muscle movement. Lack of which may cause cardiac abnormalities.
- Protein is very important for a healthy balanced diet. Sources are egg, fish, chicken, pulses, milk and milk products. It helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and help to maintain a healthy weight. But protein with saturated fat like red meat must be avoided to keep the heart healthy.
- Some amount of fat must be there in a regular diet. Cooking oil containing PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acid) and MUFA ( monounsaturated fatty acid) are the best for the heart health. Many studies have shown that PUFA helps to reduce the risk of CVD, whereas MUFA helps to lower LDL( low density lipoprotein) cholesterol level but maintain HDL(high density lipoprotein) cholesterol level. Oil rich in PUFA are canola oil, sesame seed oil, peanut oil. Oil rich in MUFA are sunflower oil, olive oil etc.
- Vegetables and fruits take very important role to maintain a good health. These are good sources of vitamins and minerals which are absolutely essential to keep our heart healthy. Vitamins especially those with antioxidant potency like vitamin C, E and carotenoids are able to decrease the rate of oxidative stress by neutralising free radicals, which may have a principal role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and CVD.
- Dehydration can negatively affect the organs and bodily functions including cardio vascular system. In case of dehydration the amount of blood circulating through the body decreases, to compensate the heart beats faster, increasing the heart rate and blood pressure. So it is essential to drink at least 5 glasses of water every day.
Dietary practices to be followed by the cardiac patients
- Adding more fiber in diet can result in a healthy weight, controlled blood pressure and cholesterol level.
- Poor management of blood sugar can lead to heart disease. Diabetic patients should follow a strict diet regime to keep sugar level under control and thereby protecting the heart.
- Consumption of processed food is a threat for heart patients, as these are high in salt and sugar.
- Sodas and carbonated beverages are just a no no, as the empty calories add on to weight, blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Over consumption of alcohol leads to accumulation of unhealthy cholesterol.
- In case of heart failure daily fluid intake should be on a check, as more fluid in bloodstream makes it harder for the heart to pump.
- High sodium consumption can raise blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for cardiac problem. So salt intake should be on a check. Knowing the Sodium content of packaged and processed food will be beneficial if at all the consumption cannot be avoided.
Regular exercise, proper sleep, stress free lives along with healthy dietary practices are the key to keep our heart healthy.