Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death world-wide. The good news is that healthy lifestyle choices, including diet and exercise, may reduce the risk of heart attack by more than 80% (1). The inclusion of functional food and supplements are gaining increasing recognition as important components in cardiovascular health. Here we’ll look at some dietary practices and 14 food that may help protect the cardiovascular system.
Plant Based Diets
Plant-based diets are associated with lower blood pressure, lower blood lipids, and reduced platelet aggregation than non-vegetarian diets. They are also beneficial in weight management, reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes (1,2). Some research suggests that vegetarian diets reduce cardiovascular mortality and the risk of coronary heart disease by 40%. This is backed up by findings that indicate that a high intake of flavanoids from fruit and vegetables is associated with reduced risk of mortality from CVD in men and women (3). There seems to be lots of evidence to support the use of a well planned plant-based diet for cardiovascular health.
The Problem with Animal Protein
Meats and dairy products are rich in sulphur amino acids which may increase the risk of cardio-vascular disease. Eating a diet rich in plant food such as fruits, vegetables and grains, means you will benefit from consuming fewer sulphur amino acids (4).
The Mediterranean Diet
If you don’t fancy going vegan or vegetarian how about trying a Mediterranean diet? There is lots of evidence showing the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, rich in antioxidants and healthy fats from fruit, vegetables, olive oil, fish and nuts. In particular it is associated with a lower incidence of atherosclerosis, a common cause of cardiovascular problems (5).
The Microbiome, Weight and Heart Health
Our microbiome is made up of trillions of microbes that affect many aspects of health. There is evidence to suggest that altering the balance of organisms in the gut, by using antibiotics for example, can affect the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and weight gain (6). So for a healthy heart it’s clearly important to look after your gut.
The good news is that certain components in food alter the gut bacteria in a way that is beneficial to cardiovascular health (7). The beneficial food components include:
Rather than following a vegan, vegetarian or Mediterranean diet you might just want to know which foods to eat for cardiovascular health so you can add them to your healthy diet.
Here are 14 heart healthy food to incorporate into your diet:
The benefits of a healthy diet are massively increased if physical activity is included in the plan.
Exercise prevents oxidative stress, inflammation and vascular dysfunction (32). It also raises metabolism, burns calories, decreases fat and increases muscle mass.
Tom Oliver’s Products for Heart Health
The following food and supplements may be useful additions to your heart healthy diet:
If you suspect you may be at risk of cardiovascular problems it’s important to get checked out by your doctor.
(This blog post was adapted from Tom Oliver.)