From gathering around the dining room table and “doing lunch” to celebrating momentous occasions and even for comfort, food has become an integral part of modern human life.
But healthy foods are often compromised in our fast-paced world. When mom and dad are rushing to get the kids to soccer practice, it’s often easier to run through a drive-thru.
Why is eating for your heart so important?
Heart disease can lead to a heart attack or stroke. In Arizona, it’s the cause of one in four deaths. Obesity is a major contributor with nearly 70 percent of Americans classified as overweight or obese, mostly due to a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. Because the heart needs to work harder, obesity also triggers increased blood cholesterol and triglycerides, diminished “good” HDL cholesterol, increased blood pressure and diabetes.
But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Or in the case of heart disease, a pound of healthy food can help keep your heart healthy.
1. Whole grains: From oats and barley to quinoa and brown rice, whole grains deliver healthy fiber to our diets. They also boost immunity and help prevent cholesterol absorption into the body.
2. Fatty fish: Fish, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and tuna, have been shown to prevent heart attacks by helping maintain steady heart rhythm, preventing blood clots, and lowering both blood pressure and inflammation.
3. Avocados: An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but an avocado a day could lead to a significant reduction in blood pressure according to a recent study by the American Heart Association. This fatty fruit lowers total cholesterol and the bad LDL cholesterol while boosting good HDL levels.
4. Dark greens: Dark leafy greens such as spinach, chard and kale are powerhouses supercharged with vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as calcium, magnesium and potassium, which play a role in regulating blood pressure.
5. Legumes: The high levels of soluble fiber in beans, chickpeas, lentils can help lower cholesterol and triglycerides. When buying legumes, reach for dried varieties as canned foods are loaded with salt, which can raise blood pressure.
6. Flaxseed: It’s one of those misunderstood foods, but a pinch of ground flaxseed sprinkled over oatmeal adds fiber, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to your diet. (Trust me, you won’t even know it’s there.)
7. Olive oil: Monounsaturated fatty acids found in olive oil have been shown to improve heart health. Highly versatile, it can be used for cooking and dressing salads and fresh vegetables.
8. Nuts and seeds: Snack? Reach for unsalted seeds or nuts that are high in potassium and magnesium, which reduce blood pressure. Pistachios, walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts are excellent choices, and walnuts are even high in omega-3s giving you a one-two punch.
9. Berries: Whether blueberries, raspberries or strawberries, berries are chock-full of anti-inflammatories, which reduce the risk of heart disease.
10. Dark chocolate: Cacao beans are loaded with antioxidants, which have been shown to help lower blood pressure, increase good cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol, improve blood flow, prevent blood clots and fight cell damage.
The sky is the limit when choosing good heart-healthy foods. Being good to your heart means it will be good to you for years to come.
Dr. Mansour H. Assar is a board-certified and fellowship-trained Interventional Cardiologist in Globe, Arizona. He attended and graduated from medical school in 1986, giving him more than 31 years of experience in cardiovascular disease (Cardiology). He is affiliated with many hospitals including Cobre Valley Regional Medical Center in Globe, and St. Luke’s Medical Center, a Steward Family Hospital, in Phoenix. Dr. Assar also cooperates with other doctors and physicians in medical groups including Steward Medical Group. To book an appointment with Dr. Assar, call 602-507-6002.