Heart disease accounts for over 600,000 deaths in the United States each year. This figure represents 1 out of 4 deaths, making heart disease the top cause of death in both women and men.
Coronary heart disease or CHD, is responsible for over half of these deaths from heart disease and is caused by plaque buildup in the arteries. Plaque restricts vital blood flow and is largely caused by the foods consumed. Foods high in cholesterol and certain fats build up in the arteries in a process called atherosclerosis.
Although no foods can reverse atherosclerosis, a better diet can slow the rate at which plaque grows. Thus, a proper diet can slow the process of developing heart disease. What is the best diet for doing so?
The Best Diet for Controlling Heart Disease
We cannot stress enough that although a certain diet cannot reverse damage already done, changing what is consumed can slow the rate of plaque growth in the arteries. And for people with young, healthy hearts, the proper diet can prevent the buildup entirely.
Most experts recommend what has been called the Mediterranean diet to control heart disease. The Mediterranean diet has been so named because it is rich in fish, nuts, legumes, olive oil, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Equally important to what this diet comprises is what it does not include.
The following are some of the best foods in each category for living a heart-healthy life.
- Vegetables: Leafy green veggies are best. Spinach, collard greens, and kale all are high in vitamins and other nutrients that keep us healthy and none contribute to plaque buildup. Remember too that fried green tomatoes are still deep-fried and will cause plaque to grow. Veggies are best frozen or fresh. If canned vegetables are used, choose low-sodium options.
- Olive oil: As stated before, no foods can reverse heart disease, but research does indicate that the use of extra virgin olive oil can reduce the risk of major cardiac events in those with cardiovascular disease.
- Whole grains: Brown rice, oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes all provide the carbs and fiber needed for bodily health without causing damage to the cardiovascular system.
- Fruits: Fresh fruits are the best, though coconuts are questionable. In any event, be sure that canned fruits chosen are not canned in syrup and if they are canned in juice or water, look for brands that do not contain added sugar. Also, berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) contain plenty of heart-healthy nutrients and are antioxidants.
- Fish: The best fish to choose for heart health are those high in omega-3 fatty acids. This means oily fish like tuna, mackerel, sardines, and salmon are best. Regardless of this, any fish is always better than red or processed meats provided it is broiled or grilled only.
If you are unsure about how to develop a diet plan that is right for you, get in touch with your Kymera Primary Care Provider. If you are concerned you may already have a heart condition, he or she can arrange for you to meet with one of our staff cardiologists. Naturally, just knowing the best foods for controlling heart disease is half the battle. Knowing which foods are hazardous to your heart health is the other half.
What is the Worst Diet for Heart Disease?
To move to a heart-healthy diet is difficult. It can be especially hard without knowing which foods cause damage to the heart and vessels which carry blood throughout your body. Thus, it is important to know which foods should be avoided.
The worst foods, those which contribute most to plaque buildup in the arteries are those high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar. In fact, these are the most common elements in most refined and processed foods like bacon.
Also, red meat, soda, most baked goods, lunchmeat, white rice, pasta, bread, butter, most fast foods especially anything deep-fried, even canned soups are all high in the elements which cause plaque to build up.
- Love Ranch Dressing? Way high in fat and sodium.
- Ice Cream? Mostly sugar and fat.
- Potato chips? Salt, simple carbs, and fat. Very unhealthy
- Alcohol? Processes to sugar very easily and new evidence even links alcohol to cancer, the second leading cause of death in America.
Kymera Independent Physicians Cardiac Care
For over 22 years, Kymera has provided the finest care possible to patients throughout southeastern New Mexico. This includes providing cardiac care. Our Cardiology Department is composed of board-certified physicians who not only help with the medical side of the equation, but also the lifestyle side.
The fact is that there is no magical pill to prevent a heart attack or stroke or protect you from another. A combination of diet, exercise, proper medications and treatments along with certain lifestyle changes are vital to protecting your heart. Kymera provides a Better Healthcare Experience because we treat all of you, not just your heart.
If you need to see a cardiologist, would like to change providers, or simply want to talk to your primary care physician about making lifestyle and dietary changes, request an appointment now. We are here to help.