Here are five ways to reduce the risk of Coronary Artery Disease
We have always heard that we are what we eat. That’s how the foods that we eat can affect our weight, hormones and the health of various organs, including our heart. Eating a healthy and balanced meal will help us reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Coronary arteries are the major blood vessels that supply blood, oxygen and nutrients to our heart, and a person faces Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) when these arteries become damaged or diseased. When plaque or cholesterol or fat-containing deposit settles in our arteries - this condition is referred to as atherosclerosis i.e. commonly known as hardening of the arteries. This plaque is the main reason that puts you at risk of getting coronary artery disease. When there is a build-up of plaque, they narrow the coronary arteries blocking or slowing the flow of blood and oxygen needed for proper heart function and this decreased blood flow may cause chest pain also known as‚ ‘angina’ in medical terms. Other symptoms observed include shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and an irregular heartbeat.
The disease is multifactorial and the most important risk factors are tobacco or smoking, diabetes, a familial tendency to develop this condition, high blood pressure and an abnormally high cholesterol level in the blood. Atherosclerosis can also be seen due to various other reasons like sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and psychological stress. A complete blockage of these arteries can cause a heart attack and that’s why it is wise to make lifestyle changes to have a profound effect on improving coronary artery health.
General recommendations to help you tackle CAD:
We all know certain foods which are not heart or health-friendly and we shouldn’t eat them. However, it’s often tough to change our lifestyle and eating habits but still working on making healthier food choices and keeping our heart healthy isn’t as hard as it sounds! Let’s look at following the guidelines given below:
• Choose healthy fats: When it comes to heart health, fats are always termed as bad, but it’s only the transfat and overconsumption of oils or fat which is bad for our health. Some fats are actually good for our body like Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s) from coconut oil or A2 ghee which when taken in moderation works on controlling the inflammation from our body. Omega-3 fats found in walnut, flaxseed and fish are also healthy choices as they are really good for the heart and brain, plus help in controlling inflammation. The bad fats from junk or processed or fried food should be avoided. Cold-pressed or unrefined oils like sesame, mustard, groundnut, rice bran oil can be used for cooking but in moderation.
• Staying active: Movement or activity is very important to have proper blood circulation which automatically reduces the pressure from the heart and doesn’t allow plaque formation to happen. Try to engage in daily physical activity, at least a 30 to 45-minute brisk walk, 10,000 steps, cardio workouts, yoga, swimming and aerobic exercises.
• Hydrate: Water is the most essential macronutrient that we always forget to focus on. Seventy to 80 per cent of our body is made up of water and if we don’t drink an adequate amount, it will put a strain on our organs and make us feel sluggish. Drinking water is also important for detoxification, proper circulation and ensuring that plaque doesn’t get deposited in the arteries. Try and drink around 2.5 to three litres of water daily to help your body eliminate toxins.
• Bulk with fibre: Fibre is essential to bind with the bad fat in our body and its elimination. Soluble fiber which is easily found in many grains and fruits helps us reduce the total blood cholesterol levels by lowering the LDL or bad cholesterol in the body. A fibre-rich diet has also shown to have heart-health benefits, such as reducing hypertension, inflammation and plaque deposits.
•Watch how you cook: Instead of frying, go for healthy cooking options like steaming, baking, broiling, sauteing, stir-frying, grilling, poaching and roasting.
The writer is the Chief Nutrition Officer, Luke Coutinho Holistic Healing Systems. She is a clinical nutritionist with a focus on healthy lifestyle choices.
Photo courtesy: Jonathan Borba on Unsplash