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Foods To Maximize Your Heart Health

Discussion in 'Cardiology' started by Mahmoud Abudeif, Sep 27, 2019.

  1. Mahmoud Abudeif

    Mahmoud Abudeif Golden Member

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    Given that heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women—both in the United States and worldwide—it may be hard to believe that this dangerous health condition was once fairly uncommon. In the early 1900s, for instance, very few Americans died as a result of heart disease—a trend that, unfortunately, changed by the mid-1960s, when the frequency of coronary artery disease and heart attacks reached an all-time high. This peak in heart disease mortality was largely associated with poor dietary habits and an uptick in smoking prevalence.

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    Over the past several decades, however, there has been a reduction in heart disease deaths due, in part, to increased preventive measures, improved diagnosis, and better hospital care. In a nod to prevention, here are five foods that can boost heart health.

    Fish

    You may think that you need to eat fish every day to reap maximal benefits, but three times a week may do the trick in terms of heart health. According to the results of one interventional study, eating salmon just three times a week for 8 weeks during energy restriction lowered diastolic blood pressure levels among young overweight adults (aged 20-40 years; BMI: 27.5–32.5 kg/m2), with most pronounced effects in those who ate fish infrequently.

    Can’t stomach fish? No worries! Fish oil supplements have been shown to effectively decrease triglyceride and blood pressure levels, and improve arterial function.

    Whole grains

    In a meta-analysis of 45 studies, researchers examined the association between whole-grain intake and the risk of heart disease and other illnesses. They found that whole-grain consumption was related to lower risks of coronary heart disease and heart disease, cancer, lung disease, infectious disease, and diabetes.

    Specifically, consuming 90 g/day of whole grains (ie, three servings) decreased the chances of developing coronary heart disease (RR: 0.81), stroke (RR: 0.88), and cardiovascular disease (CVD; RR: 0.78). Results were comparable when stratified per incidence or mortality.

    “These findings support dietary guidelines that recommend increased intake of whole grain to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and premature mortality,” wrote the authors.

    Avocados

    For all you avocado nuts, feel free to enjoy avocado toast—on whole-wheat bread, of course. Better nutrient intake and diet quality have been linked to the consumption of avocados. Of note, avocados are also rich in potassium, an essential nutrient for heart health.

    In one study in over 17,000 participants, eating avocados lowered the risk of metabolic syndrome, which essentially serves as a proxy for heart disease. Specifically, the OR for metabolic syndrome was half as much in avocado eaters (n = 347) than those who didn’t eat them.

    The benefits of avocados may be related to their monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) content. Other researchers have shown that MUFAs can decrease the risks for coronary heart disease and cardiovascular risk factors, and may offer some benefit in terms of antihypertensive effects and insulin sensitivity. Of note, MUFAs could decrease cardiovascular risk factors via oxidative modification of LDL cholesterol and by lowering macrophage uptake of plasma-oxidized LDL.

    Other nutritional goodies found in avocados include essential nutrients, phytochemicals (ie, antioxidants), and fiber.

    “Dietitians can recommend consumption of avocados as part of a healthful diet that focuses on increased fruit and vegetable intake,” concluded the authors. “Avocados can be incorporated into the diets of most adults, and may be of additional benefit to those who have increased risk for metabolic disease risk factors.”

    Berries

    Although there is a paucity of data on the relationship between berries and heart disease, researchers recently found that berry consumption was related to lower fasting glucose levels, HbA1c, and BMI, as well as the inflammatory marker tumor necrosis factor-α in a meta-analysis of 22 randomized, controlled trials (n = 1,251). Notably, no association between berry consumption and other factors such as lipid levels was observed.

    “Our subgroup analyses demonstrated that berries products might be utilized as a possible new effective and safe supplementary option to better prevent and control CVD in subjects with cardiovascular risk factors,” wrote the authors.

    Legumes

    Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat…the better your heart health? In a low-powered, randomized, controlled trial (n = 16), researchers found that simply eating a half cup of pinto beans daily for 8 weeks decreased serum total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels—historical markers of heart disease—among study participants.

    Other researchers have also supported this association between legume intake and cardioprotective health benefits. For instance, in a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the link between legume consumption and all-cause and CVD mortality, high legume intake was associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, and did not increase the risk for CVD mortality.

    The investigators speculated that the heart-health benefits of legumes may be due to their vegetable protein content, which has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels in previous dietary trials.

    Furthermore, in another systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies, high legume consumption was, again, associated with a decreased risk of heart disease—a 10% reduction in both CVD and coronary heart disease, in fact.

    Obviously, these foods are not the only ones that benefit the heart. Other heart-healthy foods include dark chocolate, tomatoes, and nuts. In the end, you can add variety to your diet to improve heart health, and keep your palate fresh.

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