Use diet to combat future heart failure
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), more than 8 million Americans will have heart failure by 2030. That’s a 46 percent increase in the number of cases currently diagnosed. Not only will the costs associated with this disease increase from $21 billion to $70 billion, but each and every U.S. taxpayer will be footing the bill, whether they have the diagnosis or not.
Heart failure is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the heart has been weakened by high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes and can no longer pump enough blood through the body.
What you should know is that nearly 80 percent of cardiovascular disease is preventable by focusing on diet early in life.
While research related to diet and coronary artery disease during the past 100 years has generated more questions than answers, science has given us strong, concordant evidence about the benefits of certain foods. These foods demonstrate cardio-protective qualities and, by incorporating them into our diet, we can dramatically reduce the risk of heart failure.
It’s never too soon to begin eating for heart health, so let’s examine a cardio-protective diet, and some common misconceptions, more closely:
The major components of a cardio-protective diet include fiber-rich complex carbohydrates; tree nuts; fresh fruit and vegetables high in phytochemicals, potassium and other minerals; omega-3-rich seafood; lean meat; red wine; and monounsaturated fatty acids derived from olive oil. What should be avoided includes refined carbohydrates and sugar, salt, saturated fatty acid, dietary cholesterol and trans fat.
When it comes to complex carbohydrates, and whole grains in particular, there’s lots of confusion. That’s because no single standard exists for defining any product as a “whole grain.” Take a good look at the products in the bread aisle of your grocery story. Every package seems to brandish some type of grain-based message or symbol, and when it comes to picking what’s best for heart health, the process can be mystifying.
To simplify the complex and not fall prey to whole grain junk food, the AHA developed a pragmatic definition of whole grains, based on the fiber content of whole wheat, and it’s called the “10:1 ratio.” This is approximately the ratio of carbohydrate to fiber in whole wheat flour. A commercial product with a ratio of 10 to 1 or less of total carbohydrate to fiber is preferable.
Omega-3 fatty acids also can be confusing. These can be found in both plant and animal sources; however, not all omega-3 fatty acids are created equal. There are different types: ALA fatty acids come from plants, and EPA and DHA fatty acids come from oily fish. The omega-3s from fish have more potent health benefits than those from plants.
Fatty fish such as anchovies, herring, farmed and wild salmon, sardines and white tuna tend to have the highest concentrations, not to mention other healthful nutrients, including vitamin D and selenium.
Clearly, we have solutions to change the course of this disease; begin to apply them today for better heart health tomorrow.
Tina Ruggiero, M.S., R.D., L.D., is a nutrition expert and award-winning author. Her new book, “The Truly Healthy Family Cookbook,” will be available in August. Find Tina at www.TinaRuggiero.com.