Do you know cardiovascular (heart) diseases that include stroke, are one of the leading causes of death worldwide, claiming nearly 18 million lives every year? A good lifestyle that includes regular exercising and eating healthy foods can keep your heart fit and fine.

Though it is quite tough to change your eating habits overnight, there are certain foods that can actually help you to gain good heart health. Once you know which foods are best for your heart and add them to your daily diet, you will improve your heart health.

Before you look at the superfoods to eat daily to maintain your heart health, understand what your heart does and what are some common cardiovascular diseases. 

Your Heart and Its Functions

Your heart is the main organ of the circulatory system or the vascular system, that permits blood to circulate throughout your body. The heart is a hollow, muscular organ, located between the two lungs and slightly to the left of your center, behind the breastbone (a thin, flat bone running down the center of your chest). 

Your heart is basically a pump that distributes blood throughout your body’s tissues, enabling the transport of oxygen, nutrients, and hormones, that are essential for carrying bodily functions. Another very important function that the heart performs is maintaining your blood pressure (the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries).

Your heart contains muscles that are strong enough to pump up to 2,000 gallons of blood through your body every day. It beats (also known as heart rate or pulse) anywhere between 60 and 90 times per minute, depending upon your health and activity level. The more physically fit you are, the lower will be your heart’s resting rate. Keeping your heart healthy is the key to prevent heart diseases and other complications.

Heart Diseases

Heart disease describes a range of conditions that affect your heart. The common ones include:

  • Coronary artery disease (damage or disease in the heart's major blood vessels).

  • Stroke, commonly known as heart attack, is the lack of blood flow to your heart.

  • Heart rhythm problems or arrhythmias, occurs when there is a problem with the rhythm of your heartbeat.

  • Congenital heart defects (heart defects you're born with).

  • Heart valve disease (a condition in which one or more of your heart's four valves do not work well).

  • Diseases of the heart muscle.

  • Heart infections occur when bacteria, viruses, or other germs damage your heart vessels.

Most of these heart diseases are often a result of a sedentary (inactive) and stressful lifestyle. Remember a healthy heart is one that is exercised and active. Besides regular physical activity, eating the right foods also have a direct impact on your heart health. 

6 Foods You Must Eat Daily to Maintain Good Heart Health

Eating foods high in fat, cholesterol (a waxy, fat-like substance that's found in all the cells in your body), or sodium (salt) can be very harmful to your heart. So, when you are taking steps to minimize the risk of heart disease, diet is a good place to start.

Some of the essential foods for a healthy heart are:

1. Oatmeal 

Oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber, which reduces cholesterol. It works like a sponge in the digestive tract (or digestive system) and soaks up the cholesterol; thus preventing it from being absorbed into your bloodstream. It is recommended to not consume instant oatmeal, which often contains sugar, and look instead for old-fashioned or even quick-cooking oats. 

Other whole grains such as bajra (edible seeds of pearl millet plants) and jowar (also known as sorghum), used as an alternative to flour or all-purpose flour, are also an excellent sources to eat.

2. Citrus Fruits

Oranges and grapefruits have high amounts of flavonoids that nearly reduce 19% risk of ischemic stroke (a stroke is caused by a blood clot that blocks the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, in areas where there are narrowing and blocking of the arteries). They contain many other compounds that can keep your heart healthy. They are rich in soluble fiber and work by:

  • Raising your HDL (high-density lipoprotein) levels: HDL, also known as "good" cholesterol, helps remove other forms of cholesterol from your bloodstream. High levels of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.

  • Lowering harmful LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels: LDL, also known as “bad” cholesterol, leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. LDL lipoproteins are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

  • Lowering your triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are another type of fat that usually comes from fatty and salty foods like butter and cooking oils. High triglycerides may contribute to the hardening of your arteries or the thickening of the artery walls, leading to a condition called arteriosclerosis.

Citrus fruits are also rich in vitamin C, which has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease. They are also known to lower high blood pressure, another risk factor for heart disease.

Eat citrus fruits as a whole and avoid consuming its juice as that contains added sugar. 

3. Garlic

Garlic is used for managing or treating several conditions related to your heart and the circulatory system. These conditions include high and low blood pressure, high cholesterol, inherited high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, heart attack, decreased blood flow due to narrowed arteries, and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

Studies claim that diallyl trisulfide, a component of garlic oil, helps protect your heart during cardiac surgery and after a heart attack. Another study shows that raw garlic contains a component called allicin that reduces your cholesterol levels. 

The best way to consume garlic is by eating raw garlic on an empty stomach or adding it to your daily food while cooking vegetables.

4. Mushrooms

The fiber, potassium, and vitamin C present in mushrooms, all contribute to cardiovascular health. Potassium and sodium combinedly work in your body to help regulate blood pressure. 

One of the special components found in mushrooms is beta-glucan. An intake of about 3 grams of beta-glucan every day can lower blood cholesterol levels by approximately 5%.

Toss fresh mushrooms in your everyday meals like soup, sandwiches, and salads to add a powerhouse of nutrients for your heart and your overall health.

5. Tomatoes

Tomato consumption is quite popular in India. Be it raw or in the form of a curry. Tomatoes are high in potassium. Besides, they’re a good source of the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid that helps to get rid of bad cholesterol, keep blood vessels open, and reduce the risk of a heart attack. Since they’re low in calories and low in sugar, they don’t detract from an already-healthy diet.

6. Spinach

When it comes to your health, you really can’t skip vegetables as green vegetables will give an extra boost to your heart. They are filled with carotenoids, which work as antioxidants and free your body of potentially harmful compounds. They’re also rich in fiber and contain tons of vitamins and minerals. Spinach is one of those leafy green vegetables that could be extremely beneficial to keep your heart healthy.

Eating spinach fresh is best, so add it to your salads or smoothies to complement your heart-healthy diet.

A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular diseases. Add the right foods in optimum quantities to your daily diet, for long-term benefits to your heart health.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.