Cardiovascular Disease is a class of diseases that involves the heart or blood vessels. Two of the most common causes of cardiovascular diseases are atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) and hypertension (high blood pressure). In this article I will focus primarily on ways to prevent atherosclerosis, however many of these diet and lifestyle tips will also encourage healthy blood pressure levels.
Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is most commonly due to fatty materials such as CHOLESTEROL. Cholesterol, a fat like substance, is important in many bodily functions, however having too much cholesterol can lead to many adverse effects. There are two main types of cholesterol: low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL cholesterol is known as “bad cholesterol” as too much of it can build up in your arteries, narrowing blood flow to the brain and heart, and therefore INCREASING your risk of a heart attack or stroke. HDL is known as “good cholesterol” as it may aid in preventing LDL from sticking to your artery walls, helping to DECREASE your risk of heart attack and stroke. The ratio between LDL and HDL cholesterol is very important, and it is best to aim for low LDL and high HDL. Total Cholesterol (TC) is your LDL + HDL + triglycerides (fat). Total cholesterol levels should be under 200mg/dl.
There are many factors that affect high cholesterol, including genetics. We cannot change our genes but we can modify diet and lifestyle to encourage a positive cholesterol ratio, lower total cholesterol levels and decrease our risk of heart attack or stroke.
Listed below is some dietary advice that can significantly benefit your lipid profile!
What to Avoid
Saturated Fats and Trans Fats: High total cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol is linked with a diet of saturated fats and trans fatty acids. Saturated Fats come from animal fats, fatty cuts of red meats, high fat dairy such as cheese, ice cream and 2% or higher milk. Trans Fats are found in margarines, fried foods and commercially baked goods such as donuts, cookies and cakes. Also, packed freezer foods such as microwave dinners, pop tarts and frozen pizza products often contain high amounts of trans fats. As a general rule, it is best to avoid processed and packaged foods.
What to Eat
1. Fish: Consumption of fish has been shown to produce favorable effects on the lipid profile. It is best if fish is consumed twice a week, and is most beneficial if eaten baked or broiled. Frying fish decreases the amounts of healthy oils found in fish that are so very advantageous to your health.
2. Raw Almonds and Walnuts: Eating 84g/day of almonds or 68g/day of walnuts has been shown to reduce total and LDL cholesterol. Interestingly enough, eating nuts frequently is shown to reduce heart disease by 30-50%.
3. Olive Oil: Can reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol, encouraging a desirable lipid profile. It is advised to eat olive oil uncooked, by adding on top of salads, soups or breads as frying olive oil changes the chemical structure and reduces its healthy properties.
4. Coconut Oil: This oil is high in saturated fats, HOWEVER, new research is emerging showing that coconut oil may in fact decrease LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. Of added benefit, some research is beginning to show that a diet high in coconut may improve cognitive function.
5. DO NOT OVER EAT! Having more weight on your body significantly increases your chances of heart disease.
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FreedDigitalPhotos.net:Selection of Cakes by Grant Cochrane
FreedDigitalPhotos.net:Bottle of Olive Oil with Olives by m_bartosch