In line with the celebration of the World’s Heart Day, the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) released a report saying that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is likely to become an increasing problem in Europe, as more and more people are practising unhealthy lifestyles.
Even though the rate has declined, heart disease remains to be the number one killer in Britain – one in three deaths is attributed to cardiovascular problem. It is responsible for 47% of deaths in Europe and 40% in the European Union.
You are what you eat!
The good news is – heart disease is preventable. By observing a healthy lifestyle, you can reduce your risk of suffering from cardiovascular problems including heart attack and stroke. Your diet plays a major role in your heart health. So if you’re looking to change for the better, why not focus on what you eat first?
Here are foods that promote better heart function:
· Oats and whole grains
A cup of oats is one of the healthiest options for breakfast. It is high in fibre which makes you feel full for a longer period of time and at the same time lowers down your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Pair it with a glass of natural orange juice for a total morning health boost! If you’re feeling bored about your usual oatmeal, you can have other whole grains such as wheat, barley, brown rice, pulses, millet as well as beans. Aside from fibre, whole grains are great source of iron, vitamin E, magnesium and other essential nutrients that promote cardiovascular health.
· Olive oil and flaxseed oil
Adding olive oil in your regular diet aids in keeping your heart healthy. It is loaded with monounsaturated fats that boost the production of HDL levels, or the good cholesterol. It is also packed with antioxidants such as polyphenols that are known for a number of health benefits. Replace high-fat mayonnaise with olive oil for your salad and see the difference! You can also use flaxseed oil. This flavourful oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, phytoestrogens and fibre.
· Red wine
A shot of red wine a day keeps the doctor away. When drank with moderation, red wine is very heart-friendly. It contains resveratrol and flavonoids – antioxidants that boost your heart health. Instead of beer, high-carb cocktail drinks and hard liquor, cope with those stressful days with a glass of red wine.
· Walnuts, almonds, pistachios and other nuts
Walnuts are highly flavourful nuts that are better substitute for croutons. They are loaded with vitamin E, magnesium, fibre and mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Almonds are rich in vitamin B17, as well as zinc, magnesium, iron, and monounsaturated fats. Pistachios and other nuts are great snack choices too. In a 2007 US study, researchers suggest that a handful or two of pistachios a day can keep heart disease at bay.
For centuries, scientists have recognised the value of apple in maintaining good cardiovascular health. The saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away is not hype, it’s real. It is because apples contain a photochemical guercetin which has the ability to prevent inflammation and blood clotting.
· Soy milk and soy protein
Love making smoothies? Instead of adding high-fat cream or milk, use soy milk instead. It is high in isoflavones, vitamins and minerals such as B-complex, folate, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phytoestrogens. Other than soy milk, you also want to include soy protein like tofu in your diet. It is a great alternative to fatty red meat (which is known to increase bad cholesterol levels).
· Tomatoes, carrots, spinach and other vegetables
Tomatoes act as blood purifiers. Regular consumption of tomatoes has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease. Also, it contains vitamin K that prevents blood clotting and haemorrhages. Carrots on the other hand are rich in alpha-carotene, a type of fibre that’s good for the heart. Popeye’s favourite, spinach, is loaded with B-complex vitamins, Lutein (a carotenoid), folate, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fibre. Broccoli, the anti-cancer food, is also rich in these nutrients.
By adding these foods on your regular diet, as well as exercising and quitting unhealthy habits like smoking and alcohol, you can enjoy a life that’s free from heart health threats!
Sources of this article:
European cardiovascular disease statistics: 2012 edition, European Heart Network, European Society of Cardiology, Sept 2012.
British Heart Foundation