‘O’ God! Give me a healthy heart. God will surely reply ‘Eat healthy food for a healthy heart! Yes, the healthy diet is mandatory for a healthy heart. Besides food, you need to keep a check on heart’s health.
Demographic data indicates that the heart disease rate among Indians / South Asians is double that of the national averages of the western world. This may be attributed to an underlying genetic predisposition to metabolic deregulation and cardiomyopathy (1-4), as well as a recent shift of modifiable risk factors towards increasing consumption of red meats / saturated fats / trans fats / junk foods and higher stress in sedentary call-center workers in India. Four factors that are responsible for the rising cardiac diseases are diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, and smoking.
Public health estimates indicate that India accounts for approximately 60% of the world’s heart disease burden (5), despite having less than 20% of the world’s population. Heart disease is the number one cause of mortality and a silent epidemic among Indians.
According to a report published in an Indian English daily nearly 3 million people die of stroke and heart attack every year. These figures prove how irresponsible we are when it comes to our health and heart especially!
Now, talking about what coronary heart disease actually is, first you should know that it is the coronary arteries that supply nutrient-rich blood and oxygen to the heart. But with time and age, cholesterol (called plaques) starts depositing inside the arteries thus narrowing them. When the arteries get too narrowed, blood flow to the heart is reduced causing pain or angina. A myocardial infarction, or what we know as heart attack, occurs when the plaque ruptures resulting into a blood clot. This clot further stops any blood flow to the heart and kills that portion of the muscle.
What are the best foods for heart health?
Oh dear! That’s really a horror but that is what actually happens. And this is the reason why doctors and your well-wishers always ask you to consume proper food and reduce down on your calorie intake. Any type of heart disease can be cured through medication or surgery, only though you are lucky enough to survive the heart attack. But it is always better to keep ourselves safe from such happening. The best way is to abstain from high calorie diet and bank of nutrient rich food that are discussed below.
- Have oats regularly for your breakfast instead of bread butter or parantha. The beta glucan present in oats are soluble fibre and help reduce cholesterol level in your body.
- Consume as much green leafy vegetables as you can. Spinach, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage etc. are extremely rich in calcium, folic acid, magnesium, potassium and dietary fibre that are low in fat and calories and beneficial for heart.
- ‘One apple a day keeps the doctor away!’ Quite true, apples are loaded with guercetin that reduces the chances of blood clots.
- Try eating tomatoes everyday either raw or in cooked form since it acts as a blood purifier. Also, Vitamin K in tomatoes reduces chances of any hemorrhages.
- Almonds too reduce cholesterol levels if consumed moderately. Moreover, almonds also are a rich source of iron, magnesium, zinc and Vitamin B17 and E that are a good source of monounsaturated fats.
- A good amount of olive oil in your regular meals helps reduce cholesterol as it is packed with monounsaturated fats and anti-oxidants. Also, you can consume extra virgin olive oil that is rich in polyphenols, extremely good for health.
- Whole grains like wheat, pulses and beans are loaded with natural fibre, Vitamin E, magnesium and iron that are good for heart and reduces blood pressure as well.
- Wine is not always harmful for health since red wine when consumed in limited amount can reduce chances of heart diseases with its high concentration of resveratrol and flavanoids.
- Lastly, you can also consume soy protein in the form of soy card or soy chunks that also reduces the amount of cholesterol.
These are the few natural ways of preventing or keeping yourself safe from any coronary diseases. Exercise, though, is a must to remove excess fat from your body that considerably helps in keeping the cholesterol level low.
1. Enas EA. How to beat the heart disease epidemic among South Asians: A prevention and management guide for Asian Indians and their doctors. Downers Grove: Advanced Heart Lipid Clinic, 2005.
2. Book: Enas EA. Singh V, Munjal YP, Gupta R, Patel K. Recommendations of the Second Indo-US Health Summit on the prevention and control of cardiovascular diseases among Asian Indians. Indian Heart J 2009;61:265-74.
3. Paper: “Risk Factors for Early Myocardial Infarction in South Asians Compared With Individuals in Other Countries,” Joshi, Islam, Pais, et al: JAMA; Vol. 297 No. 3, January 17, 2007
4. Review Article: Review Paper: “South Asians and Cardiovascular Risk: What Clinicians Should Know,” by Milan Gupta, Narendra Singh and Subodh Verma. Circulation; Journal of the American Heart Association. 2006;113:e924-e929
5. South Asian Heart Center at El Camino Hospital