Diet and Heart Health

Can you prevent heart disease with a healthy diet? And if so, what does that look like?

We have touched on diet in previous posts but let’s look at what research says about diet and heart health. There are so many diets touted to improve health and reduce heart disease risk but which ones actually deliver results? The first diet that comes to mind is the Mediterranean Diet. This diet has been researched for years and has proven to be effective in several studies. One such study from the New England Journal of Medicine shows the Mediterranean diet reduced three major risk factors for cardiovascular disease by 30%. The DASH diet has been effective at reducing blood pressure but also improves other risk factors for heart disease. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute cites research showing a reduction not only in blood pressure but also in LDL cholesterol  and homocysteine levels for those following a low sodium DASH diet. (DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”). The common features of both of these diets is a focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy with limited consumption of meat (especially red meat), sweets, sugary beverages and a reduction of saturated fat and sodium intake. Eating more healthy natural foods and avoiding overly processed and refined foods is always good advice when it comes to health. Either of these diets would be my recommendation for someone wanting to prevent or recover from cardiovascular disease. Working with a qualified dietitian can help tailor the diet according to your own individual needs. We know from a previous post that a high amount of sugar in the blood stream such as seen in diabetes, can be a risk factor for heart disease. If pre-diabetes or diabetes is present, you will need to be mindful of the type and amount of carbohydrate-containing foods consumed. If you have food allergies or intolerances, those must be considered in order to reduce inflammation. If gastrointestinal issues are present, a registered dietitian can help you find foods that may be better tolerated.

With changes in dietary guidelines and so much controversy when it comes to diet advice, it can become confusing to know what to eat. But just remember that there is no one diet that works for every one. A diet must be tailored to your unique condition(s), food preferences, food availability and finances. The best diet in the world does no good if you do not like it or cannot afford it. Also keep in mind that diet is just one part of the puzzle. You must minimize other risk factors and foster good lifestyle habits for your diet to have the best impact. Happy eating!

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