In the United States, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death. In Canada, it ranks a close second. According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of diseases caused by an unhealthy lifestyle could be prevented if positive health changes were made. These include following a healthy diet, increasing physical activity, reducing alcohol consumption, and abstaining from smoking.
So what can you do to keep your heart healthy?
Regular physical activity will increase your HDL (good cholesterol) and keep your heart fit and strong. It will also help you feel more energetic, happier, and relaxed. Try to be physically active most days of the week for at least 30 to 40 minutes.
KEEP A HEALTHY BODY WEIGHT
Losing excess weight will help improve your cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, and reduce inflammation. Try to keep your weight within the healthy range for your height. For support, speak to your health practitioner and dietician.
REDUCE SALT INTAKE
High salt intake can increase your risk of heart disease by increasing your blood pressure levels. While limiting the salt you add to your food is important, most of your salt intake can come from processed foods. Read food labels regularly and aim for foods with less than 400 milligrams (mg) of sodium per 100 grams (g).
CHOOSE WHOLE GRAINS
The research on whole grains and heart health is strong because these grains are full of fiber and rich in nutrients. Try to replace refined grains in your diet with whole grains like brown grainy bread, whole-grain cereals such as rolled oats, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, sorghum, and others.
A recent Danish study of 55,000 adults followed over 13 years showed that those who ate the most whole grains had a 25 percent lower risk of having a heart attack than those who consumed the least amount of whole- grains.
Fats should account for 20–35 percent of the energy you eat. Healthy fats, such as from avocados, supply valuable fatty acids that nurture your body and brain. These fats also help you absorb such important fat-soluble nutrients as vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Soluble, or viscous, fibers are components of plants that create a gel-like texture when soaked or cooked. These fibers help catch cholesterol in your gut, preventing it from being absorbed into your bloodstream. Studies show that about 10 grams of viscous fiber each day can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by about 3 to 5 percent. Increase your legume intake to reap the benefits.
The protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and isoflavones in soy foods can help lower your cholesterol, improve blood pressure, and keep your blood vessels flexible. One to three servings of soy per day can help lower your LDL cholesterol by about 3 to 5 percent.
Article courtesy of Sanitarium Health Food Company. Visit sanitarium.com.au and subscribe to Wholicious Living for more great health and nutrition info each month.