Heart disease is one of the main causes of death in the world. Too often, it's thought of as a sudden disaster — the clutching of one's arm or pounding, crushing chest pain.
However, the truth is that heart disease is more like the long arc of a baseball in the air; we notice its movement as it approaches us, but in reality, the ball has been descending for most of its flight.
But, by the time full-fledged clinical heart disease is apparent, with symptoms like chest pain, most of the damage has already been done. The good news is that if you make the basic right decisions about diet, you are already protecting yourself against the bulk of the risks.
The battle against heart disease is part of a lifelong commitment to actively pursue health through good lifestyle choices, ones that "turn on" your health-promoting genes. Below is a list of heart-healthy foods and substances that doctors recommend to patients with heart disease.
Top seven foods for heart health
#1: Coldwater fish
Omega-3 fats found in coldwater fish like salmon, tuna and cod, as well as supplements, have been shown to lower blood pressure
Nuts and nut butters are another good option to protect against heart disease
. They're full of good fats, they lower LDL (the so-called "bad" cholesterol) and protect against coronary heart disease
. Both pine nuts and almonds are good choices.
5. Crunch on cabbage.
Red cabbage contains anthocyanins and is rich in vitamin C; a study reports that boosting vitamin C levels helps to prolong the life of people with heart failure. Red cabbage has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, a phytonutrient that provides the reddish pigment. Besides adding the bright red color to tomatoes, lycopene is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrient that plays a role in reducing bad cholesterol.
#5: Tart cherries
Yes, these tangy and tart treats are powerful antioxidants. They also contain anthocyanins, which provide cherries with their red-pigmented color, fight free radical formation, and reduce inflammation. Chronic inflammation worsens the development of plaque formation within blood vessels, which contributes to heart disease.
#6: Olive products
Oleuropein is found in olive leaf extract, and has been found to reduce blood pressure
. Oleuropein also pinpoints hardened arteries by reducing arterial resistance and stiffness as well as enhancing endothelial function to decrease blood pressure. It's found in both olive oil and in olives.
#7: Dark chocolate
Flavanols are nutrients found in a number of foods, but are especially abundant in cocoa. Cocoa flavanols (found in cocoa powder and dark chocolate, for example) are important nutrients that are thought to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. There's also some research suggesting that they reverse age-related memory decline in older adults.
While the types of foods that we eat play a huge role in promoting or preventing heart disease, you can't forget the importance of physical activity, which also helps protect against the development of heart disease. So combine good nutrition and physical activity to optimise your health.
Here's to a healthy heart!
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