Our poor food choices generate more ill health than physical inactivity, alcohol, and smoking combined and since a healthy heart is central to overall good health, following a heart-friendly lifestyle will prevent heart diseases while encompassing a well-balanced diet and taking care of external factors in keeping the heart healthy. Heart diseases are one of the leading causes of death around the world and sometimes, without even giving any warning signs, these heart conditions have proved to be very critical, which is why it has become very important to get your heart checked on a regular basis.
50% of women in India reportedly live with an abnormal cholesterol level and with heart disease getting younger, there is an urgent need for women to be aware of how to live healthy. The human body needs cholesterol for different functions but a faulty lifestyle can adversely increase the levels of cholesterol leading to a poor heart health.
A heart-healthy diet is an essential ingredient of therapeutic lifestyle changes recommended for prevention and treatment of heart disease. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Tilak Suvarna, Senior Interventional Cardiologist at Mumbai’s Asian Heart Institute, listed 9 eating tips for a healthy heart:
1. Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables and salads which are good sources of vitamins and minerals, low in calories and rich in dietary fibre.
2. Have more whole grains instead of refined grains. Whole grains are good sources of fibres and nutrients which are essential for heart health. Whole grains include whole-wheat flour, whole-grain bread, high-fibre cereals, brown rice, oatmeal.
3. Avoid food rich in saturated fat or cholesterol. These include deep-fried foods, butter, high-fat dairy foods, processed meats, red meat. High cholesterol leads to plaque deposition in the arteries of your heart which is a precursor for heart attacks.
4. Reduce the amount of calories. Sugary foods like deserts, sweets, bakery items, sugary drinks as well as processed or refined foods increase the amount of unwanted calories which can lead to weight gain, accumulation of fat, worsen pre-existing diabetes, all of which are factors that increase your risk of having heart disease.
5. Reduce the salt intake in your diet. Excess salt is the main culprit for high blood pressure which in turn can damage your arteries and heart.
6. Check the food labels on items that you buy and look for calorie, sugar, salt and fat content.
7. Include healthy nuts in your diet like walnuts and almonds.
8. A tablespoon of flaxseeds daily helps in increasing the HDL or good cholesterol.
9. Control your portion size. The amount of food that you eat is as important as the food you eat. Overeating can lead to increased intake of calories. Eat larger portions of low-calorie, high-fibre and high-nutrient foods and smaller portions of high-calorie, high-fat and processed foods.