About the Heart
Your heart is a muscular organ that works hard, beating 115,000 times every day, which equals 2.5 billion times over the course of an average lifetime. Your heart pumps blood containing oxygen and nutrients to your body’s cells and tissues. The heart is responsible for pumping approximately 2,000 gallons of blood throughout the body on a daily basis.
Having certain medical conditions can reduce the effectiveness of your heart, and consequently its ability to circulate blood. CVD can prevent the proper delivery of blood by the heart and blood vessels, for example, and this can deprive organs including the heart of oxygen and nutrients they need.
CVD is a significant source of ill health and death among Americans, with nearly half of all adults in the United States having some form of the disease, according to the American Heart Association. CVD kills 2,380 people each day, or one person every 36 seconds. The number of deaths from cardiovascular disease has been rising steadily since the early 1900s, and after reaching a peak of nearly 800,000 deaths per year in the early 1980s then dropping slightly in the 2010s, the incidence of CVD is on the rise again.
How to Improve Heart Health
The American Heart Association says that to improve their heart health, adults should get at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. It’s better to work out a little bit every day rather than trying to do a lot all at once on the weekends.
Physical activity strengthens the muscles of your heart in the same way that it strengthens other muscles in your body. Exercise doesn’t just help your heart muscle pump more efficiently, it also means that your heart pumps more blood with every heartbeat. Working at your most efficient level helps to regulate your heart rate and blood pressure.
What you eat has a direct impact on your heart health. Eating a healthier diet can help protect your heart and reduce your risk of heart disease. You should only consume as many calories as you can burn in a day. If you want to maintain a healthy weight, you should consider eating a low-calorie diet. Choose foods from each of the food groups to get a variety of nutrients. These include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, non-tropical vegetable oils, skinless poultry and fish, and low-fat dairy products. Choose diets low in saturated fat to avoid cholesterol buildup and consequent CVD.
Smoking is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease in the United States, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals that damage the heart muscle and blood vessels. Smoking increases your heart rate, tightens major arteries, causes irregular heart rhythms, and increases your blood pressure.
If you experience chronic stress, it can eventually lead to high blood pressure, or what is known as hypertension. Stress can also lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, overeating, not exercising, not getting enough sleep, and not taking medications as prescribed. All of these behaviors can have a negative impact on your heart health.
If you are carrying around excess weight, it causes your heart to work harder because it has to pump through the growing number of arteries to serve the larger size body. The increased workload causes the chamber, or cavity, of the heart to enlarge; the muscles of the heart get thicker, too, in an effort to compensate for the extra work. If a person’s heart isn’t able to relax or pump blood effectively, it may mean that the heart is going into failure. These effects may lead to heart failure.
If you want to lose weight, you should exercise regularly and avoid eating high-calorie, low-nutrition snacks.
Use A Daily Multivitamin
When it comes to daily multivitamins and heart health, it is important to choose the right one. Instead of a general multivitamin, select one with nutrients that target heart health. You should take multivitamins that include vitamin K2, niacin, folate, and polyphenols. These ingredients are effective in promoting health.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia. In 2018, heart disease accounted for 11% of all deaths in the country. One of the risk factors for heart disease can be an unhealthy diet.
It is important to pay attention to what you consume and eat a variety from the five food groups to help prevent illness.
Characteristics of heart disease
Heart disease is caused by the narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart with blood. This process is called atherosclerosis. The buildup of fatty deposits on the inside of artery walls narrows the space through which blood can flow to the heart. Atherosclerosis can begin at a young age, so by the time middle age is reached, it can be quite advanced.
Plaque build-up can be considered stable or unstable. If there is too much plaque build-up in the arteries, it can cause angina, which is a condition where not enough blood reaches the heart. This can cause pain and discomfort, and it needs to be treated.
Plaque that is unstable is inflamed and has a thin cap. This type of plaque is prone to developing a crack, which would allow blood to come into contact with the fatty contents of the plaque. When someone cuts themselves, the blood will try to clot in order to seal the wound. However, in doing so, the blood clot can block the artery. This _____ the flow of blood to the heart, cuts off its oxygen supply, and _____ or _____ the heart cells. This is a heart attack.
Dietary fats and cholesterol levels
Cholesterol is a fat that is necessary for many metabolic functions and is present in all of the body’s cell membranes. The body produces vitamin a in the liver from the food we eat.
There are two types of blood lipids that contain cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL cholesterol can cause plaque to form in the arteries while HDL cholesterol helps remove cholesterol from the body and makes it harder for plaque to form in the arteries.
Saturated fats are known as ‘bad fats’ because they tend to increase LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol in the blood. Saturated fats are found in animal products like butter, coconut oil, meat fat, lard, dripping, beef, lamb, chicken skin, and palm oil. They are also found in processed foods like pastries and biscuits.
Full fat or reduced fat dairy?
Although dairy foods containing full fat (such as milk, cheese, and yogurt) contain saturated fat, it appears that this type of fat has no effect on heart health.
The Heart Foundation advises that the general population can consume unflavored milk, yogurt, and cheese, but for people who need to lower their LDL cholesterol, reduced fat versions should be consumed.
In the past, people believed that cholesterol in eggs was bad for heart health. However, research suggests that eggs have neither a positive nor negative effect on heart health – they neither increase nor decrease the risk of heart disease for the general population.
Those who need to lower their LDL cholesterol or have type 2 diabetes should consume no more than 7 eggs per week, according to the Heart Foundation.
Trans fats, like saturated fats, usually lead to an increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the blood. However, they typically also result in a reduction of HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Processed meats are more damaging to our health than unprocessed meats, and can increase our risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Trans fats are created when oils that are either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated are hydrogenated in order to create margarine, oils for deep frying, or shortening for baked goods.
The food industry uses harder vegetable fats and shortenings in processed foods (such as cakes, biscuits, and deep-fried takeaway meals).
Some types of fats naturally occur in some meats, butter, and dairy products.
Table margarine that is mostly monounsaturated or polyunsaturated is a better substitute for butter than margarine with a high level of saturated fat.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
You can reduce your risk of heart disease by replacing the saturated and trans fats in your diet with unsaturated fats.
Replace butter, coconut and palm oil, lard, dripping, and copha with oils that come from plants or seeds (such as olive, avocado, sunflower, canola, safflower, peanut, soybean, and sesame).
Other sources of saturated fats include salted nuts, seeds, and avocado.
Blood pressure and salt (sodium)
A diet with a lot of salt can raise your blood pressure, which makes heart disease and strokes more likely. Even though we only need a small amount of salt to meet our sodium requirements, most of us consume much more than that. This is because salt contains not only sodium, but also chloride.
Sodium in our diet mostly comes from packaged and processed foods and not from salt added at the table. Many foods that don’t have a strong salty flavor can still be high in sodium.
You can reduce the amount of sodium in your diet by eating less processed foods, limiting fast food, and using herbs and spices to add flavor.
Reduce your heart disease risk with healthy eating
A diet consisting of a variety of foods is not only good for our health, but can also help lower our risk of developing diseases, such as heart disease. You should aim to have a variety of foods from each of the five food groups in order to get the most nutrients. Eat the recommended amount of each food group to maintain a healthy diet. Eating a variety of foods helps you stay healthy and eat interesting foods. This also provides essential nutrients to the body.
The Heart Foundation recommends:
- Plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
- A variety of healthy protein sources (especially fish and seafood), legumes (such as beans and lentils), nuts, and seeds. Smaller amounts of eggs and lean poultry can also be included in a heart-healthy diet. If choosing red meat, make sure it is lean and limit it to one to 3 times a week.
- Unflavoured milk, yogurt, and cheese. Those with high blood cholesterol should choose reduced fat varieties.
- Healthy fat choices – nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and their oils for cooking.
- Herbs and spices to flavor foods, instead of adding salt.
In addition to being aware of what you are eating, pay attention to how much you are consuming and whether you are satisfying your hunger with unhealthy options. The size of food servings has increased over time, causing many people to eat more than they need. This can lead to obesity and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
For a healthy plate, it is ideal to have a quarter of the plate be protein, a quarter carbohydrates, and half vegetables.
Foods important for heart health
There is no one food that will lower your risk of heart disease, but some foods may be important for heart health. These include:
- Oily fish – such as mackerel, sardines, tuna, and salmon that contain omega-3 fatty acids. This type of fat has been shown to decrease triglycerides (a type of fat) and increase HDL-cholesterol levels, improve blood vessel elasticity, and thin the blood, making it less likely to clot and block blood flow.
- Some vegetable oils – such as corn, soy, and safflower (which contain omega-6 fatty acids), and those containing omega-3 fatty acids (such as canola and olive oil). All of these can help to lower LDL cholesterol when used instead of saturated fats such as butter.
- Fruit and vegetables – fiber, potassium, and other micronutrients (such as antioxidants) in fruit and vegetables offer protection against heart disease. They are also an important source of folate – which helps lower the blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which appears to be linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
- Wholegrains – a diet high in fiber from wholegrain cereals is linked to reduced LDL cholesterol and lowered heart disease risk. Foods with high levels of soluble fiber (for example, oats, legumes, and barley) are great for lowering total cholesterol levels.
- Unrefined carbohydrate sources with a low glycaemic load – such as wholegrain bread and cereals, legumes, certain types of rice and pasta, and most fruits and vegetables also help to lower blood triglycerides and glucose (sugar) levels, help manage diabetes and reduce heart disease risk.
- Legumes, nuts, and seeds – are good sources of plant proteins, fiber, healthy fats, and micronutrients to help lower your cardiovascular risk.
- Tea – some research suggests antioxidants in tea can help prevent the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries. They may also act as an anti-blood clotting agent and improve blood vessel dilation to allow increased blood flow.
- Foods containing vitamin E – some studies indicate that vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect against LDL cholesterol.
- Sources of vitamin E include – avocados, dark green vegetables, vegetable oils, and wholegrain products. Eat foods containing vitamin E rather than supplements, which have not been shown to have the same protective effects.
- Garlic – a compound in fresh garlic (called allicin) has been found to lower total and LDL cholesterol in the blood, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Foods enriched with plant sterols – a daily intake of 2 to 3 g of phytosterols/stanols lowers LDL cholesterol levels by approximately 10% in healthy people, and those with high cholesterol or diabetes. This equates to 2 to 3 servings of phytosterol-enriched foods like margarine spreads, yogurts, milk, and breakfast cereals.