September 29 is World Heart Day. It was established on the initiative of the World Heart Federation in 1999.
The action was supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNESCO, and other international organizations. The purpose of the Day is to draw public attention to the danger caused by the high prevalence of cardiovascular diseases in the world, as well as to talk about the importance of preventive measures. Cardiologists in their recommendations constantly emphasize that diseases of the cardiovascular system can be largely prevented, including through a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
What foods improve the functioning of the cardiovascular system, and what should be excluded from the diet? Nana Vachikovna Pogosova, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Professor, Deputy Director-General for Research and Preventive Cardiology of the National Medical Research Center for Cardiology of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, expert of the Rospotrebnadzor Healthy Nutrition project, tells.
Rule of five servings
To maintain the health of the heart and blood vessels, you need to consume five servings of vegetables and fruits (500 g) every day. They are a source of fiber, which, like a sponge, absorbs excess fat and removes it from the body. First of all, we are talking about saturated fats, which tend to be deposited on the walls of arteries and impede blood flow, leading to heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems.
It may seem that five servings of vegetables and fruits are a lot. Not really. This is one apple and bell pepper or two tomatoes; banana and a serving of cabbage or carrots, beets. No need to chase exotic vegetables and fruits. For example, cabbage is a wonderful product, and one of the most affordable in any season.
The question often arises: how useful are frozen vegetables and fruits? If the freezing is carried out correctly, then almost all nutrients are preserved, including vitamins, micronutrients, and trace elements. Therefore, the use of frozen foods – vegetables, fruits, berries – is a good help in winter and autumn. In addition, there are also dried fruits. Dried apricots, prunes, dates, raisins contain a lot of potassium, magnesium, various vitamins that are beneficial for the body in general and the heart in particular.
Don’t Forget Fiber
Many people cut bread out of their diet entirely. While whole-grain bread is necessary for the functioning of the cardiovascular system. It is rich in B vitamins and fiber. Cereals are also useful – especially rice, buckwheat, spelled. They help remove “bad” cholesterol.
Choose healthy fats
To prevent cardiovascular disease, it is important to limit your intake of saturated fats, especially trans fats. Fats are needed by the body as a source of energy. But you need to choose products containing polyunsaturated fatty acids – “defenders” of the vascular walls. Fatty acids are found in vegetable oils: olive, corn, sunflower, soybean, rapeseed.
In the same way, substances that are in fish oil are useful for blood vessels, so cardiologists strongly recommend that patients include more fish in their diet. Moreover, unlike meat, which should be lean, fatty fish will bring more benefits. For example, herring, mackerel, or salmon. Canned fish can also be used but without any harmful additives. For example, canned tuna is good to add to a salad with a lot of greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, seasoned with vegetable oil, or low-fat yogurt – you get a healthy, healthy dish that will protect the heart.
Regular consumption of fish (at least 1-2 times a week) is an important component in the prevention of atherosclerosis. Like nuts, it is enough to eat 30–40 g per day. It is important to get enough protein – both animal (lean meat, poultry) and vegetables (lentils, peas).
It is very important to limit the amount of sugar in your diet. No more than 50 g of sugar per day – added or originally contained in products. The habit of drinking sugary soda, heavily sweetening tea, or coffee can lead to weight gain, and consequently, to an increased risk of developing diabetes. This is, in fact, the equivalent of cardiovascular disease, because small vessels are affected in diabetes. Approximately 80% of patients with diabetes die from heart attacks, strokes, peripheral atherosclerosis, and related problems.
To date, the spread of alimentary-dependent diseases has acquired the scale of a pandemic. This is a recognized risk factor for the occurrence of cerebral strokes, myocardial infarction. Therefore, reducing excess consumption of simple carbohydrates is one of the important characteristics of a healthy diet.
Use salt wisely
Another aspect of proper nutrition is the judicious use of salt. The average consumption in Russia is about 12–14 g per day. The norm recommended by WHO is less than 5 g. How can salt be limited? People often say it’s unrealistic. Everything is possible if you follow certain rules. However, they must be reasonable. For example, you should not completely refuse pickles or herring, but if you eat potatoes with them, then you can no longer salt them. It is necessary to maintain a certain balance, take care of yourself, undersalt ready-made food – many do this automatically, without having tried the dish yet.
The amount of salt consumed affects the level of blood pressure – the less it is, the lower the pressure. Therefore, hypertensive patients can help themselves by limiting salt in the diet.
All of the above recommendations are the joint opinion of expert cardiologists, which is set out both in the latest National Guidelines for Cardiovascular Prevention and in the recommendations of the European Society of Cardiology. It is based on serious studies that have shown that people whose diet contains designated food groups suffer less from heart attacks, strokes, and die less often from cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, it is worth adhering to the rules of a healthy diet to support the heart and blood vessels in their important work.