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  Diet & Nutrition

February 2012
Heart Friendly Diet
Priyanka Shukla
 
The cause of a heart disease can be varied – genetics and physical calamity among the commonest of them. An increasing number of heart disease cases are found to have their genesis in poor nutrition too. There are three issues that the heart-conscious must face when choosing a diet. They are:

  • Decreasing saturated fat intake
  • Reducing sodium levels
  • Maintaining ideal weight

There is no reason to believe that there have been genetic mutations in Indians to account for this rising burden of heart attacks, but what has definitely altered is our environment and lifestyle.

Essential and Non-Essential Fats
Most foods contain several different kinds of fats, and some are better for your health than others. You don’t need to completely eliminate all fat from your diet. In fact, some fats actually help promote good health. But it’s wise to choose the healthier types of dietary fat, and then enjoy them — in moderation.


Harmful dietary fats

  • Saturated fat: This type of fat comes mainly from animal sources of food. Saturated fat raises total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.
  • Trans fat: This type of fat is present naturally in some foods, especially foods from animals. They increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol and lower healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Most fats that have a high percentage of saturated fat or trans-fat are solid at room temperature. Beef fat, pork fat, shortening, stick margarine and butter are among them.

Healthier dietary fats
  • Monounsaturated fat: This type of fat is found in a variety of foods and oils. Studies show that eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels.
  • Polyunsaturated fat: Evidence shows that eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels. Omega-3 fatty acids have cardio protective property and are beneficial for the heart.
Fats containing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, such as olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil and corn oil.

Cholesterol – Good Or Bad?
Cholesterol is vital, because among other important functions, it helps build your body’s cells and produces certain hormones. Excessive cholesterol in your diet can increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Reduce Salt Intake
Salt has a direct detrimental effect on target organs beyond its capability of elevating blood pressure. According to the recent guidelines by ICMR, salt intake has been reduced from eight g/ day to six g/day. To achieve this, all processed foods have to be avoided.

Maintain Healthy Weight
It is important that a person suffering from heart disease maintains oneself in an ideal weight range. Brisk walking, jogging, basic household activities are some ways to engage in physical activity for people aged above 60 years. Yoga also helps in regulating metabolism.

Contributory Factors
  • With the demographic shifts consisting of progressive ageing of the population, more people reach an age when cardiovascular diseases become clinically manifest
  • Lifestyle transition with adoption of unhealthy lifestyle comprising of sedentary habits; lack of physical activity associated with increased mechanization.
  • Nutrition transition with consumption of diets rich in cholesterol and salt but low in fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Socio-economic transition associated with urbanization, industrialization and affluence

    
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