Today, cardiovascular diseases are no longer a malady of the elderly. Indians of the 21st Century are getting heart attacks a decade before their forefathers did. There is an urgent need to arrest faulty lifestyles and make the required meal modifications to save your heart.
Aiming for a healthy heart means working towards a diet which promotes lowering of LDL and saturated fats (Triglycerides–TGs) levels and increasing HDL levels.
THIS IS WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE:
1) Reduce or maintain healthy weight: Being overweight increases the risk of heart disease. Eat just enough calories to maintain optimum weight. Cutting down 500 calories /day will make you lose 2 kgs a month. While doing this, one automatically curtails the intake of unhealthy fats.
2) Choose healthy fats and oils: The more saturated fat you eat, the more cholesterol your body makes. So it is never too late to cut down the following unhealthy options:
- Animal fats: Butter cream, processed cheese, high fat dairy, red meat, and shellfish.
- Vegetable fats-coconut oil, palm oil
- Hydrogenated fats-known as Trans fats. These are cheap vegetable oils made solid by the process of hydrogenation. They are found in margarines, packaged baked food, biscuits, confectionary, fried food, french fries, coffee creamers, whipped toppings.They are the most dangerous as they raise LDL levels substantially.
It is also vital to prioritize the following healthy options
- Unsaturated fats (PUFA and MUFA): Polyunsaturated fatty acids(PUFA) and Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) are heart friendly, keep your LDL levels low and HDL levels high. PUFA: sunflower, corn, soybean,sesame, cotton seed, nuts. MUFA: olive oil, canola oil Rice bran oil , mustard oil are heart friendly. Oils like canola, olive, mustard , fish oil contain omega -3 fatty acids (a kind of PUFA) excellent for the heart.
When choosing oils go for the cold pressed blended ones- which maybe a mixture of 2 edible vegetable oils. Keep at least three different oils on your kitchen table. Consume not more than 30 gms(3 tablespoons) of fats everyday which includes at-least one teaspoon of “desi ghee”.
An advisory from American heart Association(2015-2020)- Replacing saturated fats with PUFA vegetable oils reduces cardiovascular disease risk by 30%.
3) Be fibre friendly: A vegetarian diet is a heart friendly diet as it is high in soluble fibre. One should know that this wonder nutrient binds the cholesterol, making it unavailable and promotes its excretion from the body . For the sake of fibre, your choice of foods should be whole grains, (legumes, sprouts, flax seeds,oats, whole wheat bran, quinoa) etc, variety of colourful fruits or vegetables (at least 3-4 helpings a day). These will help in lowering LDL as well as blood sugar levels. On the other hand processed and refined starches like white bread, white rice, burgers, noodles , pasta, refined flour, fruit juices and sugary drinks should be avoided as they lack fibre.
4) Eat a wholesome breakfast: To kick start your metabolism and keep you energetic throughout the day, include an egg , whole grain cereal and low fat dairy. Begin your day with a bowl of fruit.
5) Include walnuts: It has omega 3 fat that fights inflammation and improves blood vessel function.
6) Get your blood pressure (BP) under control: as it causes blood vessels to constrict putting extra strain on the heart. Eating less salt keeps BP under check. Less than teaspoon of table salt/day has been recommended. Avoid processed food, pickles,cured and smoked meats. Take more of vegetables and fruits as they are rich in potassium which is heart friendly.
7) Be physically active: 30 minutes a day of moderate activity. Avoid long sessions of sitting.
8) Laughter is the best medicine: Just find a way to laugh loudly for 10 minutes everyday to ward off stress.
9) Smoking is injurious to health as it constricts blood vessels and reduce the flow of blood to the heart.
10) Manage your diabetes well as it may eventually lead to thickening of arteries.