Heart disease is the world’s number 1 killer of men and women, according to the World Health Organization. Luckily, you are never too old or too young to begin taking care of your heart through the day-to-day small steps. A heart-healthy diet and lifestyle are the most proven ways to fight your heart disease.
- Get phytonutrients such from fruits and vegetables
Flavonoids are compounds naturally from many fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants and helps the body get rid of everyday toxins, they’re found in citrus fruit, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetable (broccoli, kale, spinach, etc.), and herbs like ginger and onion.
- Consume fiber-rich foods
We know that soluble fiber is best known for helping relieving stool easier, but the benefits of fibers are more than we thought. Whole grain food contains dietary fiber that can dissolve in the water to form a gel-like substance helps lowering blood cholesterol level and blood sugar.
- Eat more fish
When it comes to benefit of fish, people may know that fish is a great source of omega 3 that good for the heart, brain, and eye (2). However, 10% of American adults take an omega -3 supplement instead of 2 servings of fish per week because some studies claim that fish oil supplements protect the heart, like reduce heart attack and stroke. The truth is, fish omega-3 and supplements do not function in the same way. You should still consider eating fish as a healthy strategy or get omega-3 from the plants, such as flaxseed, chia seeds, or walnuts (3).
- Use herb and spices to kick up the Flavor
Ginger, garlic, onion, turmeric are not just incredible flavor and aroma to the dish, they contain naturally immune-boosting compounds for anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, which has beneficial effects on blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. So, next time when you’re cooking a meal, be creative ways to use those herbs and spices to kick up the flavor of a meal, load up on flavors with chicken, or sauté vegetables with garlic, your heart will thank you for it! (4)
- Talk to a Doctor before starting any Supplements
There’s a ton of supplement claims good benefit to promote heart health, yet there’s still no strong evidence-based data supporting that using vitamin supplement protects your heart. As consumers, we must know the facts from the marketing. Some supplements are may not be harmful, but some may carry risks associated with heart function if you’re overdose. Because A, D, E, K are fat-soluble vitamins that are not dissolved in water and easily accumulate in the body, these nutrients are more likely to lead to toxicity. Therefore, the followings vitamins are recommended to consume more than tolerable upper intake level
- Vitamin A: 3,000mcg
- Vitamin D: 4,000IU
- Vitamin E: 1,000mg
We must keep in mind that whole foods are a better source of getting these nutrients naturally. It’s also important that consult a trusted health professional if you have questions about proper dosing.
- Be active
Research has shown that at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and keep your weight at a healthy level. Many people set a goal too high then end up discouraging themselves from continuous workouts. start small steps in your daily life: walk after meal for 15 mins, take the stairs instead of the elevator, do housework like cleaning, vacuuming, or dishing.
- Quit smoking
Whether you smoke tobacco or e-cigarette or even the secondhand smoking, it increases the risk of lung cancer and breathing problem. It is also strongly associated with risk of heart disease. What does smoking do to the heart? it narrows arteries and causes an irregular heart rhythm, so your heart works harder to pump the blood; then it raises blood pressure, which increases the risk of stroke. It’s even worth secondhand smoke. According to the American Heart Association, secondhand smoke causes 40,000 people die of heart and blood vessel disease. Quitting tobacco is very tough, please seek to form a professional for bits of help if needed.
- Maintain a healthy body weight
Being overweight is more likely to develop conditions like high blood pressure, high bad cholesterol, or diabetes that can lead to heart failure (9). We are not talking about getting in shape or having 6 pack abs, we are talking about maintaining a healthy range of BMI or losing 5-10% of body weight that can reduce the risk of heart disease. Even a small amount of weight loss can pay off better heart health.
- Mange your stress
Life could be stressful sometimes when you’re dealing with the financial crisis, loss of a loved one, job loss, etc. When stress reaches out to the tip of the point, it leads to high blood pressure. what can you do about stress? Exercising, maintaining a positive attitude, and enjoying a healthy diet and weight, a good sleeping routine, are improving heart overall health.
- “Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs).” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cardiovascular-diseases-(cvds).
- “Should You be Taking an Omega-3 Supplement.” Harvard Health. Accessed March 12, 2021. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/should-you-be-taking-an-omega-3-supplement
- “Fish oil: friend or foe?” Howard Lewin, Chef Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing. Accessed April, 15, 2020. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fish-oil-friend-or-foe-201307126467
- “Three Reasons a heart loves garlic.” Providence. Accessed November 2, 2020. https://www.providence.org/news/uf/414540885
- “Heart Health Formula Vitamins – Are They Good for You?” Cleveland Clinic, Accessed February 1, 2021. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/heart-health-vitamins-ally-or-false-friend/
- “Can You Overdose on Vitamins?” Kubala Jillian. Healthline. Accessed January 20, 2020, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/can-you-overdose-on-vitamins#fat-vs-water-soluble
- “ Lifestyle Changes for Heart Attack Prevention. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/life-after-a-heart-attack/lifestyle-changes-for-heart-attack-prevention
- “Weight: A Silent Heart Risk.” Johns Hopkins Medicines. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/weight-a-silent-heart-risk
Written by: Emma Lingshan Sun, Dietetic Intern, CUNY School of Public Health
Reviewed by: Nazirber Maduro, RDN, CDN, CDCES