Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide. Conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels kill 20.5 million people each year, and the majority of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
According to the Inter-American Society of Cardiology, 80% of premature deaths CVD can be prevented by making small changes in lifestyle, involving diet, exercise and stress control.
Every September 29, since 2000, the World Heart Day. The date was established by the World Heart Federation with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) with the aim of raising awareness about cardiovascular diseases, their prevention, control and treatment.
According to a publication from the School of Medicine of the Harvard University“eating a healthy diet is the cornerstone of the treatment and prevention of heart disease.”
“This is easy to understand, but sometimes difficult to implement. There is no single eating plan that works for everyone,” highlighted the specialists, who remarked: “Taking this into account, the American Heart Association updated its dietary guidelines in 2021 for the first time in 15 years. Instead of listing the do’s and don’ts of specific nutrients (such as protein or fat), the new guidelines, published in the journal Circulation, focus on healthy eating patterns.”
But it turns out that many people, including doctors, aren’t sure which diets are best for keeping your heart healthy.
This issue was the inspiration behind a recent scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA), released last May, because, according to professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Frank Hu“People hear about all kinds of popular diets in the news and on social media, but they don’t have a clear idea of which ones actually have scientific evidence behind them.”
1- Increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “fruits and vegetables provide a variety of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, all of which are known to help prevent disease.” Specialists recommend that especially people who have high blood pressure, eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and cereals.
“The goal is to consume between seven and nine combined servings of fruits and vegetables each day: about four or more of vegetables and two to four of fruits,” noted the registered dietitian. Julia ZumpanoRD, LD.
“Eating a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables (which are packed with nutrients and many types of beneficial plant molecules) is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death,” the guidelines released by Harvard state.
2- Choose minimally processed foods
Evidence indicates that eating ultra-processed foods (which are loaded with salt, added sugar, fats and preservatives) is linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and death from any cause. So, Harvard experts recommended that, to the extent possible, “avoid processed meats, frozen meals, ready-made baked goods, snacks, and other processed foods.”
“We all need fat in our diet, but not all fat is created equally – they clarified from the Cleveland Clinic -. Trans fats and saturated fats are the so-called bad fats. These increase LDL (or bad) cholesterol, the type that encourages plaque buildup in your arteries. “Red meat is high in saturated fat, as are certain types of cheese.”
In that sense, the specialists recommended “consuming good fats or monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, present in nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, flaxseed, soybeans and fatty fish.”
3- Do physical activity
Although it is not a dietary pattern in itself, the practice of physical exercise is a habit that cannot be missing in a person. Lifestyle healthy.
Weight gain is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and consuming more calories than you burn leads to weight gain. “It is possible that only a few dietary adjustments are necessary so that the calories consumed balance the calories burned during activity,” he said. Liz Moorea dietitian at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
And he expanded: “Maybe in some cases it is necessary to reduce fast food and make room for nutritious foods. Or maybe reduce the portions.”
To which Cleveland added: “People should make sure they do exercise that increases their heart rate and do it for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.”
4- Choose healthy proteins
Although the American Heart Association recommends consuming 150 grams of protein per day, the type of protein consumed is important.
The updated guidelines suggest eating primarily plant-based proteins, such as nuts or legumes, along with two to three servings of fish per week. All of them are associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease. And although it’s still debated, the new guidelines recommend replacing full-fat dairy products with low-fat ones for better heart health. For those who want to eat meat or chicken, the guidelines recommend eating only low-fat cuts and staying away from processed meats of any type.
5- Avoid foods and drinks with added sugar
Consumption of sugary foods and beverages is consistently associated with elevated risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and weight gain, according to guidelines followed by Harvard experts.
In that sense, they advise reading the labels of nutritional information looking for “added sugars” or look for added sugars in the list of ingredients (present in components such as glucose, dextrose, sucrose, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup or fruit juice concentrate).
As it is known that restrictions are difficult to sustain over time, specialists highlighted that “it is not necessary to completely eliminate sugar from the diet, simply limiting its consumption is enough.”
6- Reduce salt consumption
The guidelines warn that eating too much salt can increase blood pressure, which is a known risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Extra salty foods include convenience foods and processed foods, but like sugar, salt “hides” in packaged foods, such as salad dressings or whole wheat bread.
Read food labels carefully for sodium (salt) levels and keep your intake below 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day.
For adults, the WHO recommends consuming less than 5 grams (a little less than a teaspoon) of salt per day.
7- Limit alcohol consumption
Drinking too much alcohol increases the risk of stroke and dangerous irregular heartbeats, guidelines warn.
From Mayo Clinic They stated that “excessive alcohol consumption generates a series of consequences for the body that in many cases are serious,” among which they highlighted: “It can cause high blood pressure and increases the risk of suffering from cardiomegaly (enlargement of the heart), heart failure.” or a stroke. Even just one heavy drink of alcohol can cause irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia), called atrial fibrillation.”
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “the moderate consumption of alcohol is defined as no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men.”