The cardiac diet guidelines recommended here are aimed primarily at lowering the high death rate from heart disease, they may also help prevent other diet-related diseases for heart patients with or without diabetes. Here are 15 ways to make your heart stronger:
- Avoid diet that is high in saturated fats, cholesterol, salt and sugar. Most of the recognized risk factors for coronary heart disease are influenced by a rich diet. Replace one or two meals a week with healthier choices you’ll gradually get used to cooking and eating balanced meals.
- Eat a variety of foods each day. Different types of food are necessary to supply the main nutrients required for good cardiac health. No single food contains all these materials.
- Prevent and control obesity. Obesity is one of the world’s major health problems. It increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Reducing excess fats, alcohol and sugar and increasing physical activity will help to bring down your weight. Eat less, rather than cutting out whole categories of food.
- Eat less fat. Excess fats in the diet may contribute to obesity, high blood cholesterol levels, heart disease and certain cancers. Choose lean meats, low-fat dairy products and use low-fat cooking methods. Use butter, margarine, cream and oils sparingly.
- Eat less sugar. High sugar intake is associated with obesity and tooth decay. Sugars, whether white, brown, raw or glucose, are solely an energy source and their nutrient content is negligible.
- Limit alcohol intake. Excessive alcohol contributes to the health, social and nutritional problems of many people. Low nutritional status results when habitual drinking interferes with good eating habits.
- Eat more fruit, vegetables and cereals. Constipation, diverticular disease and other constipation-related ailments are linked with lack of dietary fiber (found only in plant foods). Bread, whole grain cereals, fruit and vegetables provide necessary dietary fiber and a variety of nutrients. They are best for replacing foods high in fat and sugar.
- Eat less salt. Sodium from excessive use of table salt and salty processed foods may contribute to high blood pressure. Reducing excess sodium intake from an early age may help to control hypertension. Salt should not be added to food prepared for infants.
- Enjoy water. People drink large amounts of soft drinks and alcohol, which may contribute to obesity and dental caries. Where possible, quench your thirst with water. Use water rather than sweetened syrups and beverages for infants and children.
- Encourage breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is the preferred method of providing a growing infant with nutrient and energy needs in the correct proportions. Breastfed babies run less risk of infection than those who are bottle fed.
- Use lean meats, chicken and fish. Remove all visible fat before cooking. Avoid sausages, luncheon meats and salami-type meats. Replace some meats with beans, peas and lentils several times a week.
- Use minimal amounts of fats and oils. Fats and oils are basically the same sorts of compound. Use minimal amounts of butter, margarine, oils, high-oil salad dressings, mayonnaise, cream and cream substitutes.
- Use low-fat dairy products. Limit intake of whole milk and high-fat cheeses and ice cream. Use low-fat milk products, including skim milk, cottage and ricotta cheeses.
- Avoid high-fat foods. Increase the proportion of vegetable oil in the diet and cut down on animal fat. Avoid fried foods, high-fat takeaway foods, pastries, cakes, donuts, chocolates and fried fun foods.
- Use healthy-cooking methods. Use methods that require minimal fat or oil (e.g. grilling, baking, braising, steaming, boiling or pressure cooking). Use recipes requiring only moderate amounts of fat.
Lifestyle choices to improve your heart health
A healthy lifestyle is the best key to a healthy heart. As with many things, leading a healthy lifestyle will benefit you both today and in later life. Not only will you look and feel better but you’re much more likely to live a healthy and long life. A healthy lifestyle can be as simple as following four easy steps:
1. Be a non-smoker
There is no safe level of smoking. Smoking is a contributing factor to many health problems, including heart attack and strokes. Passive smoking (breathing in other people’s smoke) also poses many health problems.
2. Eat a cardiac diet
Just remember that healthy eating does not have to mean boring food or stringent diets. The key to healthy eating is to eat a wide range of nutritious foods.
Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, lots of bread, rice, pasta and other grain products, along with reduced-fat dairy products, fish, lean meat and poultry.
Be adventurous and don’t be afraid to try new foods or recipes. Here are several suggestions for modifying recipes for a healthier heart:
- Reduce fat content by using polyunsaturated oil and margarine.
- Use less salt, vegetable salt, stock cubes, soy sauce and salted, canned vegetables. Try including herbs, spices, lemon etc. for interesting flavors.
- Include high-fiber foods, such as whole grain cereals, wholemeal flour and wholemeal pastas.
- Use less sugar (white, brown or raw) and less honey.
3. Keep a check on your blood pressure
High blood pressure usually does not give warning signs. The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is by having it checked regularly.
Have regular checkups with your doctor, so that you can keen an eye on blood pressure level.
4. Exercise regularly
The more you exercise the better – but it doesn’t have to be vigorous. It may be long walks or leisurely swimming, or tennis or golf.
Or you may want to push yourself a bit more, such as aerobic classes. You may wish to incorporate extra physical activity into your working hours, such as:
- getting off the bus a stop early and walking to your office or home;
- parking the car at the far end of the car-park and walking the extra distance;
- walking at lunch time (why not forming an office or neighborhood walking group for company);
- or taking the stairs instead of the lift.
So why not give it a go! Reduce your risk of heart disease by leading a heart healthy lifestyle and reap the benefits.