Nutrition and the Cardiovascular System

The food people eat has a direct impact on the cardiovascular system, as well as other parts of the body. Certain dietary habits can create specific physical problems that relate to the heart and the way it functions. By the same token, including certain foods as part of a regular nutrition plan can help prevent certain negative issues. A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed that of all deaths resulting from stroke, heart attack or type 2 diabetes, almost 50% showed evidence of a poor diet. Heart attack is the most frequent cause of death in Americans and strokes rank fifth. Eliminating some foods from the diet and adding others can reduce chances for heart disease.

Heart issues caused by unbalanced diet

In addition to heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes, a poor diet may contribute to other negative cardiovascular issues. High blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, obesity, osteoporosis and even some forms of cancer have been linked to imbalanced nutrition, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The American Heart Association (AHA) confirms that a diet rich in nutrients reduces the chances of return hospital stays for those who have already experienced heart failure.

Foods good for the heart

Among the first recommendations for a healthy diet by NIH are fruits and vegetables. Of particular note, eating whole fruit regularly rather than drinking fruit juice is said to increase fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals. Fiber is important for cardiovascular health because it improves cholesterol numbers. This decreases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Fiber is rich in the nutrients thiamin, riboflavin and niacin that help in several areas, including oxygen flow through the blood stream. Whole grains, including whole wheat bread, brown rice and pasta, also increase fiber intake.

Protein is an important part of the diet and it can be found in non-red-meat food sources. Red meat should be lean but other healthy, protein-rich entrée options include chicken or skinless turkey. Additionally, fish, milk and other dairy products are high in protein.

Foods to avoid

Excess sodium and sugar intake are two items to monitor very closely when it comes to the diet. Both are related to cardiovascular problems.

Sodium, an essential mineral, helps the body’s fluids stay in balance. Muscle and nerve function and growth are also direct results of a proper amount of sodium. However, too much sodium adds water to the blood vessels, causing blood pressure to increase. High blood pressure is a major contributor to heart disease.

Excess sodium can be avoided by not adding salt to food at the table. Additionally, avoiding processed and pre-packaged food, usually higher in sodium than non-packaged alternatives, can lower sodium intake substantially.

Eating too much sugar obviously leads to weight gain and even obesity. Obesity raises the level of triglycerides in the blood system. This makes it harder it is for blood to flow to the heart. Obesity also lowers HDL, often called “good cholesterol,” essential in keeping arteries clear. Higher blood pressure is another result of obesity. Excess sugar contributes to these issues.

Replacing sugar-based desserts with fruit and eliminating sugar-filled soft drinks from the diet are two ways to reduce sugar intake. Certain condiments like ketchup are also high in sugar content. Substitutes such as mustard will help.

A physician or cardiologist’s advice

A physician or cardiologist can offer suggestions on a diet plan best for each individual. If heart issues are already present, a cardiologist can evaluate exact recommendations for a proper diet that will be part of a total treatment plan.

To learn more about the impact of diet on the cardiovascular system, log on to vascularhealthclinics.org.