Despite the fact that you may realize that eating certain foods can increase your heart disease risk, it is often hard to change your eating habits. Healthy eating for a healthy heart is an essential way to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Did you know? Heart disease is the number one cause of death for American women. On the other hand, stroke is the number third cause of death.
Heart diseases can also occur because of other kinds of illnesses that may affect your heart. The following kinds of medical conditions can affect your heart:
Type 2 Diabetes
Living with type 2 diabetes may increase your risk of heart disease for several reasons. For example, type 2 diabetes may cause nerve damage throughout your body, including your heart. In turn, nerve damage to the heart raises the risk of a heart attack.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
High blood pressure or hypertension forces your heart to work harder to pump blood to the rest of your body. This causes part of your heart (left ventricle) to thicken. A thickened left ventricle increases your risk of heart attack, heart failure, and sudden cardiac death.
When there is high cholesterol in your blood, it builds up in the walls of your arteries, causing a process called atherosclerosis, a form of heart disease. The arteries become narrowed and blood flow to the heart muscle is slowed down or blocked.
Cholesterol travels through the blood on proteins called “lipoproteins.” Two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout the body:
- LDL (low-density lipoprotein)
LDL, sometimes called “bad” cholesterol, makes up most of your body’s cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol raise your risk for heart disease and stroke.
- HDL (high-density lipoprotein)
HDL or “good” cholesterol, absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver. The liver then flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
But you can eat specific kinds of foods and keep your heart healthy. Certain foods can affect blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol levels, and inflammation, all of which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Here’s a list of five foods that you should be eating to maximize your heart health:
Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens are well-known for their wealth of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Some studies have also found a link between increasing your intake of leafy green vegetables and a lower risk of heart disease.
One analysis of eight studies found that increasing leafy green vegetable intake was associated with up to a 16% lower incidence of heart disease. Another study in 29,689 women showed that a high intake of leafy green vegetables was linked to a significantly lower risk of coronary heart disease.
Walnuts are a great source of fiber and micronutrients like magnesium, copper, and manganese.
According to one review, eating walnuts can reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol by up to 16%, lower diastolic blood pressure by 2–3 mm Hg, and decrease oxidative stress.
Another study in 365 participants showed that diets supplemented with walnuts led to greater decreases in LDL and total cholesterol. Interestingly, some studies have also found that regularly eating nuts such as walnuts are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
A staple in the Mediterranean diet, the heart-healthy benefits of olive oil are well documented.
Olive oil is packed with antioxidants, which can decrease the risk of heart disease. In fact, one study in 7,216 adults at high risk for heart disease showed that those who consumed the most olive oil had a 35% lower risk of developing heart disease.
Furthermore, a higher intake of olive oil was associated with a 48% lower risk of dying from heart disease. Take advantage of the many benefits of olive oil by drizzling it over cooked dishes or adding it to vinaigrettes and sauces.
Fatty Fish and Fish Oil
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been studied extensively for their heart-health benefits.
Eating salmon three times a week for eight weeks significantly decreases diastolic blood pressure. Eating fish over the long term was linked to lower levels of total cholesterol, blood triglycerides, fasting blood sugar, and systolic blood pressure.
Additionally, each 3.5-ounce (100-gram) decrease in weekly fish consumption was associated with a 19% higher likelihood of having one additional risk factor for heart diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or obesity.
If you don’t eat much seafood, fish oil is another option for getting your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
Fish oil supplements have been shown to reduce blood triglycerides, improve arterial function, and decrease blood pressure. Other omega-3 supplements like krill oil or algal oil are popular alternatives.
Resveratrol In Red Wine
Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart. A polyphenol called resveratrol is one substance in red wine that's gotten attention for its health benefits.
Resveratrol might help prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce LDL cholesterol, and prevent blood clots.
Some research shows that resveratrol could be linked to a lower risk of inflammation and blood clotting, which can lower your risk of heart disease.
The resveratrol in red wine comes from the skin of grapes used to make wine. Because red wine is fermented with grape skins longer than white wine, red wine contains more resveratrol.
Or simply eating grapes or drinking grape juice might be a way to get resveratrol without drinking alcohol. Red and purple grape juices may have some of the same heart-healthy benefits of red wine.
What you put on your plate can affect just about every aspect of heart health, so make sure you maintain a well-balanced diet to keep your heart in good shape and minimize your risk of heart disease.