Nutrition and Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide. In India, one in 4 deaths is due to CVDs.

Cardiovascular disease represents a group of disorders affecting the heart and blood vessels. It includes hypertension, stroke, peripheral artery disease, atherosclerosis, and vein diseases. According to various studies, the probability of developing cardiovascular disease increases with unhealthy dietary habits and lifestyles like:

  • Excessive intake of:
  • Sodium
  • Processed foods
  • Added sugars
  • Unhealthy fats
  • Low intake of:
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Fiber
  • Legumes
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Unhealthy lifestyle :
  • Lack of exercise
  • Overweight
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking habit
  • CVDs often coincide with other conditions, such as:
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Dyslipidemia

Role of nutrition in cardiovascular disease

A large number of scientific evidence suggest that nutrition can be one of the critical factors in preventing cardiovascular diseases. A healthy diet, in some cases, can even reverse the condition. The nutrient-rich diet also helps in the management of other risk factors for CVDs, such as:

  • Excess body weight
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Dyslipidemia

Evidence suggests that healthier dietary patterns and a higher intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and whole grains may keep your heart healthy.

What are the healthy dietary patterns?

Various studies suggest healthy dietary patterns are often associated with a lower concentration of pro-inflammatory markers, whereas a meat-based diet may cause increased levels of low-grade inflammation.

Some of the examples of healthy dietary patterns are:

  • Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet controls the risk factors associated with CVDs. It also improves blood pressure (BP), glucose metabolism, lipid profile, and gut microbiome and decreases arrhythmic risk.

  • DASH Diet

The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This diet includes

  • Low-fat or zero-fat dairy products
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Beans

It also limits the intake of foods high in saturated fat, red meat, processed meats, sweet beverages, sodium, and refined grains.

There is scientific evidence suggesting that DASH dietary pattern can give the following benefits:

  • Improvements in BP
  • Healthy body weight
  • Improvement in glucose-insulin homeostasis
  • Healthy blood lipids and lipoproteins levels
  • Reduction in mild inflammation
  • Improve endothelial function
  • Improve gut microbiome

 

What food items are beneficial for heart health?

If we find it bothersome to stick to a particular dietary pattern, we can still achieve a heart-friendly diet regimen by increasing the intake of heart-healthy food items, such as:

  • Fruits and vegetables

According to the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee, daily intake of fruits and vegetables can reduce CVD risk.

Some studies suggest that a higher intake of fruits or vegetables significantly decreases levels of CRP and TNF-α (biomarkers of systemic inflammation).

  • Olive oil

As per several studies, olive oil-rich diets may reduce mild inflammation, oxidative stress, and endothelial dysfunction.

  • Nuts

Peanuts and walnuts have demonstrated a reduction in cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality. Nut intake may also prevent the development of heart disease by

  • Managing a healthy body weight
  • Decreasing LDL-c levels
  • Reducing the risk of hypertension
  • Improving hyperglycemia and insulin resistance
  • Wine

Wine consumption in moderate amounts may help in preventing the development of atherosclerosis:

  • Decreases LDL-c level
  • Reduced oxidation stress
  • Improves endothelial function
  • Increases HDL-c levels
  • Inhibits platelet aggregation
  • Promotes fibrinolysis
  • Reduces systemic inflammation

Beer

Beer has a moderate amount of polyphenols content rendering it better cardioprotective effects than distilled beverages. According to various studies, low-moderate beer intake can protect against cardiovascular disease risk. The heart-healthy benefits of beer are comparable to moderate red wine consumption.

  • Fiber

Dietary fiber intake can improve heart health by:

  • Decreasing cholesterol concentrations
  • Managing BP
  • Micronutrients

Micronutrients improve heart health by:

  • Reduction in endothelial cell damage
  • Reducing the oxidation of LDL-c

According to various studies, deficiency of micronutrients like Zn, Iron, Magnesium, Selenium, folic acid, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E may lead to higher cardiovascular disease risks.

  • Bioactive compounds

Diet rich in bioactive compounds, such as lycopene, omega-3 fatty acids, and polyphenols, helps reduce LDL-c levels, decrease the risk of atherosclerosis development, and regulate the expression of the inflammatory and oxidative stress markers. Bioactive compounds also lower blood pressure levels and cancer risks in people.

  • Antioxidants

Antioxidants fight the damage-causing free radicals, which increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and other conditions. Antioxidant-rich foods are green and black tea, colorful vegetables and fruits, red wine, coffee, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and chocolates.

With the change in dietary and lifestyle habits, we can reduce and prevent numerous conditions, including cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, incorporate these healthy habits in your kids for their better future health.

Dr. Anand Pandey, Director & Senior – CardiologyDharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi

Narayana Health

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