Today, thanks to a general growth in awareness, having good nutrition and leading a healthy lifestyle has become essential. Several scientific branches have also been born, which try to understand how much eating healthily can actually affect our body.
There are several substances that, if taken regularly, have a positive impact on health, such as Omega, ideal for reducing triglycerides (Omega 3), or the amount of cholesterol present in the blood (Omega 6), contained in foods that make good for the heart like dried fruit and blue fish.
Among the foods that help the heart we can also include whole grains, which support the cardiovascular system in combating ischemic heart disease. The latter are useful because they have a high amount of fiber, excellent for fighting overweight or diabetes. Flavonoids, present in dark chocolate, are natural substances that are important for reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as antioxidants capable of safeguarding the elasticity of blood vessels and reducing the risk of hypertension.
Heart health: risk factors
Do you want a healthy heart? Start by checking what you bring to the table! The main risk factors for heart disease are, in fact, overweight and obesity, too high cholesterol and hypertension: all dangers you can protect yourself from with a balanced diet. Melarossa gives you some tips for healthy eating, because eating well is one of the main health allies and can make your heart healthy.
Overweight and obesity
An easy and practical indicator for everyone to measure is the abdominal circumference. Values greater than 94 cm in men and 80 cm in women are already sufficient to raise the cardiovascular risk to “moderate”. Overweight and obesity are enemies of your heart health and even your mental health. Abdominal fat in particular represents one of the main risk factors.
If you have bacon, you are more exposed to the danger of suffering from cardiovascular ailments. “Visceral fat – explains nutritionist Luca Piretta – is the one most associated with cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and diabetes. This is why it is important to follow a balanced diet to eliminate accumulations of fat on the belly. Especially if you have high cholesterol. If you want to understand if your weight is not normal, the BMI, the body mass index, also helps you, which is a value that compares weight and height to determine if you are normal weight, overweight or in the obesity range.
High levels of cholesterol in the blood help to accelerate the processes of cardiovascular, cerebral and renal aging, which is why it is important to keep it under control.
In some cases the increase in cholesterol is linked to genetic / family factors and only a drug therapy, followed under strict medical supervision, helps to reduce it, but in the absence of pathologies an effective prevention weapon is to follow a diet low in those foods higher in cholesterol.
“The foods richest in cholesterol – says Luca Piretta – are aged cheeses, cream, eggs, the visible fats of meat and ham. Even saturated fats such as those present in fried foods increase the cholesterol circulating in the blood ”.
Menopause and diabetes enemies of the healthy heart
The menopause can have a diabetogenic effect, in that it increases the chances of developing diabetes, because the drop in estrogen can modify the fat distribution, mainly accumulating it in the abdomen, and change in its composition: it is free fatty acids and increases amount of triglycerides, insulin and glucose present in the blood.
These consequences of menopause can be countered with light physical activity, such as walking, which improves insulin sensitivity, counteracts the increase in fat mass and balances cholesterol.
Disconnecting from the daily routine means decreasing the risk factors that can lead to anxiety and stress. A good habit is to find a space for yourself every day, to relax, dedicate yourself to positive thoughts and preserve your heart.
Quitting smoking has immediate benefits for your heart health, as it leads to a decrease in blood pressure and heart rate. According to experts, the risk of heart attack would decrease by 50% after one year of abstinence from smoking.
Foods that are good for the heart to add to your diet
To lead a healthy life it is necessary to regulate one’s diet. It is especially important to feed yourself daily with foods that are good for the heart, such as:
They are rich in proteins and, above all, do not contain fats. This makes them perfect for inclusion in heart foods. Beans, peas, chickpeas, broad beans and lentils are particularly suitable, to be consumed possibly two or three times a week to give the body the right amount of antioxidants. Among legumes, we must not forget the lupins, particularly rich in proteins, without saturated fats and ideal for the heart (as opposed to the proteins contained in meat, milk and its derivatives, and eggs).
Of many different types, tasty, colorful and above all necessary for heart health. It should be consumed at least three times a day to prevent cardiovascular diseases. It is especially necessary to consume fruits that contain many flavonoids, such as citrus fruits, but pears, plums, blueberries, peaches and apricots are also excellent. Without forgetting the pomegranate, which thanks to the polyphenols is ideal for combating possible imbalances in the walls of the arteries (first symptoms of the appearance of atherosclerosis and stroke). Even bananas, thanks to their high level of potassium, are perfect for regulating the functions of the heart. Finally, apples are part of the diet for the heart, thanks to the presence of flavonoids and quercetin, excellent substances to counteract the formation of plaques in the arteries.
They are essential for having a healthy and balanced diet. There is no particular type to avoid, indeed, all varieties are excellent and are very rich in vitamins, minerals, fibers and above all they contain little fat. In short, they are the perfect food even for those who want to have the right weight. Specifically, spinach is especially recommended for heart health: the characteristics and nutritional properties of spinachthey promote heart health because they are rich in potassium, calcium, fiber, B-complex vitamins: an ideal mix to safeguard good heart function. Tomatoes are also recommended, a vegetable that contains a lot of lycopene, a carotenoid that works on reducing the risk of being affected by cardiovascular diseases and tumors.
Consuming it about 2 or 3 times a week would help decrease the risk of encountering cardiovascular disease. This is due to the action of Omega 3, fats that support the defense of the heart, facilitating its correct functioning. Specifically, oily fish, such as mackerel and salmon, is the most suitable for maintaining the well-being of the heart: it contains many fatty acids necessary to keep the heart and arteries healthy. It is also rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals that generally support the well-being of the body and its used in many countries in traditional dishes which you may want to try.
Ideal for giving taste to any dish, they are fully included among the healthy foods for the heart. Thanks to their antioxidant properties, when used as an alternative to salt or other fatty seasonings, aromatic herbs help keep the heart strong. In addition to the latter, some spices are also excellent for the heart: an example is cinnamon, which helps to decrease high blood pressure, rebalancing various metabolic parameters, including blood sugar, and to relieve some hormonal discomfort.
In particular EVO oil is essential to keep the heart healthy. The ideal would be to try to reduce the use of fats of animal origin, such as butter, lard, lard and cream, since they contain a large amount of saturated fat. As for olive oil, the latter contains many Omega-3s and oleic acid, substances useful for limiting the impact that LDL (bad) cholesterol can have on the arteries, as well as for optimizing the functioning of the heart.
The ideal would be to consume tea instead of coffee. In fact, in general, those who do not drink coffee have a more active body. Those who consume tea have a better cardiovascular system compared to that of those who do not drink it; moreover, tea users are often less inclined to smoke and more oriented towards physical activity. Finally, thanks to tea it is possible to reduce blood pressure.
With moderation and attention, red wine can be included in heart-healthy foods; no more than one glass per day drunk with meals. In fact, a glass of red wine a day generates well-being to both the heart and the brain, reducing the risk of a heart attack and stroke. Furthermore, its positive effect is also linked to increasing the amount of good cholesterol in the blood, limiting the creation of clots and producing changes in blood pressure.
Lean meats (chicken, turkey, veal and rabbit) are recommended, bearing in mind that it is not healthy to exceed the consumption of red ones (pork, goose, duck). A small precaution: remove the visible fat and exclude the one present in cooking.
Foods rich in starch
Such as bread, pasta, potatoes, polenta. They are very tasty and apparently conducive to heart health; the important thing is not to abuse them, since they also contain a lot of fat.
As we already anticipated, yogurt can be a useful food to prevent the risk of cardiovascular diseases, especially in the case of arterial hypertension. The results obtained in the studies evaluated a consumption of 2 yogurts per day, compared to the consumption of 1 yoghurt per month: it was shown a risk reduction of about 20% in individuals who took 2 yogurts per day.
The undisputed star of our tables, extra virgin olive oil is a concentrate of monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E and polyphenols, which give it anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
These properties make this food a great ally in the fight against heart diseases. In fact, it has been shown by numerous studies that the consumption of extra virgin olive oil and the replacement of other dietary fats (such as margarine) with this product reduces adverse cardiovascular events. In particular, a decrease of about 10% is reported for every 10 g of extra virgin olive oil consumed during the day.
Good habits and lifestyles
To maintain excellent heart health it is necessary to pay attention to some so-called “risk factors”, such as cholesterol and high blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity and diabetes. It is necessary to regularly monitor the pressure of the arteries and practice as much physical activity as possible to counteract a sedentary lifestyle. Adequate attention must also always be paid to cholesterol : not to good cholesterol, or HDL which, if present in high quantities, is a positive factor for the arteries, but to bad cholesterol, or LDL which must remain below the maximum levels, as it could cause a build up of fat in the arteries.
For those who smoke it would be advisable to quit, since smoking is one of the first enemies of the heart, as it contains about 4000 harmful substances. In addition, cigarettes also contain metals, such as nickel and cadmium, carbon monoxide (capable of reducing oxygen levels in the blood) and hydrogen cyanide (causing damage to the heart and blood vessels).
Following a Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, is the best choice to keep the heart healthy, since it prefers the consumption of vegetable fats, such as EVO oil, over animal fats, i.e. fatty meats, butter, cold cuts and cheeses. It is based on foods rich in important nutritional values such as fruit and vegetables, oil seeds, fish, pasta, rice and bread. This type of diet facilitates the protection of the heart and reduces the risk of encountering cardiovascular diseases.
Do not underestimate good habits such as a daily walk, for those who succeed, or alternatively to be practiced at least 3-4 times a week, proceeding at a fast pace for a time ranging from 30 to 40 minutes. Finally, do not forget the importance of periodic checks, useful for monitoring the health of the organism and, in particular, of the heart (cardiological examination, urine and blood tests, electrocardiogram).
How to keep a healthy heart and what to do to strengthen the heart?
To keep our heart healthy , diet is not everything! We know well, in fact, that it is important to take into account other of our daily habits. So, in addition to the nutrition tips just seen, to keep the body healthy it is important to follow some guidelines on lifestyle in general.
●The first indication is related to smoking : cigarette smoking is linked to an increase in cardiovascular risk. It would therefore be important to evaluate the idea of quitting smoking or, if you really can’t, reduce this habit as much as possible;
●Another important indication is related to physical exercise as practicing regular physical exercise is good for the heart, “strengthens” it and decreases the risk of adverse cardiovascular events; Also pay attention to excess stress : always try to find space to relax or to practice meditation activities, very useful for reducing stress and regaining a correct state of well-being.
●Also pay attention to excess stress : always try to find space to relax or to practice meditation activities, very useful for reducing stress and regaining a correct state of well-being.
The mediterranean diet is good for the heart
If you’re looking for a heart-healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet might be right for you. The Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating – as well as a few teaspoons of flavorful olive oil and perhaps a glass of red wine – among the other components that characterize the traditional cooking style of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
Healthier diets include fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains and limit unhealthy fats. While these parts of a healthy diet are tried and true, subtle variations or differences in the proportions of certain foods can make a difference in heart disease risk.
Benefits of the mediterranean diet
Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. The diet has been associated with a lower level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – the “bad” cholesterol that is most likely to build up in the arteries.
The Mediterranean diet is also associated with a reduced incidence of cancer and with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Women who follow a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer.
For these reasons, most if not all major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adapt a diet like that of the Mediterranean diet to prevent major chronic diseases.
Mediterranean diet main foods
The Mediterranean diet recommends:
●Eat mainly plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts
●Replace butter with healthy fats like olive oil and canola oil
●Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
●Limit red meat to no more than a couple of times a month
●Eat fish and poultry at least twice a week
●Drink red wine in moderation (optional)
●Get lots of exercise
●Fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains
The Mediterranean diet traditionally includes fruit, vegetables, pasta and rice. For example, residents of Greece eat very little red meat and on average nine servings a day of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
Grains in the Mediterranean region are typically whole and usually contain very little unhealthy fat, and bread is an important part of the diet. However, throughout the Mediterranean region, bread is eaten without butter or margarine, which contain saturated or trans fat.
Walnuts are another part of a healthy Mediterranean diet. Walnuts are high in fat (about 80% of their calories come from fat), but most of the fat is not saturated. Since walnuts are high in calories, they shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities – generally no more than a handful per day. Avoid candied or honey-roasted and heavily salted nuts.
Mediterranean diet advice
The Mediterranean diet is a tasty and healthy way to eat. Many people who switch to this eating style say they will never eat any other way. Here are some specific steps to get started. Eat vegetables and fruits and switch to whole grains. The abundance and variety of plant foods should make up the majority of meals. Make a commitment to eat seven to 10 servings a day of vegetables and fruit. Switch to whole meal bread and cereals and start eating more brown rice and pasta products.
●Eat the almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts on hand for a quick snack. Choose natural peanut butter rather than the type with added hydrogenated fat. Try tahini (mixed sesame seeds) as a dip or spread for bread.
●Discard the butter. Use olive or canola oil as a healthy substitute for butter or margarine. Dip the bread in flavored olive oil or spread it lightly on whole wheat bread for a tasty alternative to butter.
●Herbs and spices make food tasty and are also rich in health promoting substances. Season meals with herbs and spices rather than salt.
●Eat fish once or twice a week. Fresh tuna, water, salmon, trout, mackerel, and herring are healthy choices. Grilled fish tastes good and requires a little cleaning. Avoid fried fish, unless it is sautéed in a small amount of canola oil.
●Replace red meat with fish and poultry. When choosing to eat red meat make sure it is lean and in small portions (about the size of a deck of cards). Also avoid sausages, bacon, and other high-fat meats.
●Choose a low-fat dairy product. Limit high-fat dairy products like whole milk, cheese, and ice cream. Switch to skim milk, fat-free yogurt, and low-fat cheese.
●Drink a glass of wine for healthy eating. If it’s okay for your doctor, have a glass of wine with dinner. Drinking purple grape juice can be an alternative to wine.