Super-foods to fight cardiac diseases

Cardiac diseases or cardiovascular diseases are some of the synonyms of heart disorders. Heart disease refers to various types of conditions that can affect heart function. These types include:

  • Coronary artery (atherosclerotic) heart disease that affects the arteries to the heart
  • Valvular heart disease that affects how the valves function to regulate blood flow in and out of the heart
  • Cardiomyopathy that affects how the heart muscle squeezes
  • Heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias) that affect the electrical conduction
  • Heart infections where the heart has structural problems that develop before birth.

What is Cardiovascular or Heart disease?

The heart is like any other muscle in body. It needs an adequate blood supply to provide oxygen so that the muscle can contract and pump blood to the rest of the body. Not only does the heart pump blood to the rest of the body, it also pumps blood to itself via the coronary arteries. These arteries originate from the base of the aorta (the major blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood from the heart) and then branch out along the surface of the heart.

When one or more coronary arteries narrow, it may make it difficult for adequate blood to reach the heart, especially during exercise. This can cause the heart muscle to ache like any other muscle in the body. Should the arteries continue to narrow, it may take less activity to stress the heart and provoke symptoms. The classic symptoms of chest pain or pressure and shortness of breath that often spreads to the shoulders, arms, and/or neck due to atherosclerotic heart disease (ASHD) or coronary artery disease (CAD) are called angina.

Should one of the coronary arteries become completely blocked — usually due to a plaque that ruptures and causes a blood clot to form — blood supply to part of the heart may be lost. This causes a piece of heart muscle to die. This is called a heart attack or myocardial infarction (myo=muscle + cardia=heart + infarction= tissue death).

Who is at risk for heart (cardiovascular) disease?

There are risk factors that increase the potential to develop plaque within coronary arteries and cause them to narrow. Atherosclerosis (athero=fatty plaque + sclerosis=hardening) is the term that describes this condition. Factors that put people at increased risk for heart disease are:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of heart problems, especially heart attacks and strokes
  • Obesity

Since cardiovascular disease, peripheral artery disease, and stroke share the same risk factors, a patient who is diagnosed with one of the three has increased risk of having or developing the others.

Symptoms of Heart disease

  • The classic symptoms of angina, or pain from the heart, are described as a crushing pain or heaviness in the center of the chest with radiation of the pain to the arm (usually the left) or jaw. There can be associated shortness of breath sweating and nausea.
  • The symptoms tend to be brought on by activity and get better with rest.
  • Some people may have indigestion and nausea while others may have upper abdominal, shoulder, or back pain.
  • Unstable angina is the term used to describe symptoms that occur at rest, waken the patient from sleep, and do not respond quickly to nitroglycerin or rest.

Other heart (cardiovascular) disease symptoms and signs

Not all pain from heart disease have the same signs and symptoms. The more we learn about heart disease, the more we realize that symptoms can be markedly different in different groups of people. Women, people who have diabetes, and the elderly may have different pain perceptions and may complain of overwhelming fatigue and weakness or a change in their ability to perform routine daily activities like walking, climbing steps, or doing household chores. Some patients may have no discomfort at all.

Most often, the symptoms of cardiovascular disease become worse over time, as the narrowing of the affected coronary artery progresses over time and blood flow to that part of the heart decreases. It may take less activity to cause symptoms to occur and it may take longer for those symptoms to get better with rest. This change in exercise tolerance is helpful in making the diagnosis.

Often the first signs and symptoms of heart disease may be a heart attack. This can lead to crushing chest pressure, shortness of breath, sweating, and perhaps sudden cardiac death.

Causes of heart diseases

Heart or cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and often can be attributed to the lifestyle factors that increase the risk of atherosclerosis or narrowing of arteries. Smoking, along with poorly controlled hypertension (high blood pressure), and diabetes, causes inflammation and irritation of the inner lining of the coronary arteries. Over time, cholesterol in the bloodstream can collect in the inflamed areas and begin the formation of a plaque. This plaque can grow and as it does, the diameter of the artery narrows. If the artery narrows by 40% to 50%, blood flow is decreased enough to potentially cause the symptoms of angina.

In some circumstances, the plaque can rupture or break open, leading to the formation of a blood clot in the coronary artery. This clot can completely occlude or block the artery. This prevents oxygen-rich blood from being delivered to the heart muscle beyond that blockage and that part of the heart muscle begins to die. This is a myocardial infarction or heart attack. If the situation is not recognized and treated quickly, the affected part of the muscle cannot be revived. It dies and is replaced by scar tissue. Long term, this scar tissue decreases the heart’s ability to pump effectively and efficiently and may lead to ischemic cardiomyopathy (ischemic=decreased blood supply + cardio=heart + myo=muscle + pathy=disease).

Heart muscle that lacks adequate blood supply also becomes irritable and may not conduct electrical impulses normally. This can lead to abnormal electrical heart rhythms including ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation. These are the heart arrhythmias associated with sudden cardiac death.

What lifestyle changes can a person make to prevent further heart disease or heart attack?

The goal of treating cardiovascular disease is to maximize the person’s quantity and quality of life. Prevention is the key to avoid cardiovascular disease and optimize treatment. Once plaque formation has begun, it is possible to limit its progression by making these lifestyle changes:

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle with routine exercise
  • Quit smoking
  • Eat a heart healthy diet such as the Mediterranean Diet.
  • Aim for lifetime control of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.\

Super foods to cure heart diseases in a healthy way

While deaths due to heart disease have dropped in recent years, it’s still the No. 1 killer of Americans. The good news is that we now know a ton about how to prevent cardiovascular disease, which includes both strokes and heart attacks. It’s clear that healthy eating and living (like exercising more!) can make a huge difference. Read on to see what you should be including in your diet to keep your ticker happy for decades to come.

1. Salmon good for cardiac diseases

Salmon and other fatty fish such as sardines and mackerel are the superstars of heart-healthy foods. That’s because they contain copious amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, shown in studies to lower the risk of arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries) and decrease triglycerides. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish and preferably fatty fish at least twice a week. Omega-3 fatty acids are also available as dietary supplements.

2. Oatmeal cures cardiovascular diseases

Oatmeal is high in soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol. “It acts as a sponge in the digestive tract and soaks up the cholesterol so it is eliminated from the body and not absorbed into the bloodstream,” says Lauren Graf, a registered dietician and co-director of the Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Graf recommends avoiding instant oatmeal, which often contains sugar, and heading instead for old-fashioned or even quick-cooking oats. Other whole grains such as bread, pasta and grits are also good for the heart as long as they still contain the entire grain.

3. Add Fruit and vegetables in diet for a healthy heart

A well-balanced diet should include at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. Try to vary the types of fruit and veg you eat. They can be fresh, frozen, dried or tinned. Pure unsweetened fruit juice, pulses and beans count as a portion, but they only make up a maximum of one of your five a day, however much you eat in one day. A portion is about a handful (80g or 3oz), for example:

  • 4 broccoli florets
  • 1 pear
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of carrots
  • 7-8 strawberries

4. Eating Walnuts is beneficial for your heart

Nibbling on 5 ounces of nuts each week may cut your risk of heart disease in half. Walnuts have lots of “good” fats. When you use these monounsaturated fats in place of saturated fats (such as butter), you cut your “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise your “good” HDL cholesterol. Walnuts are also a good source of omega-3 fats. (They don’t have the same kind of omega-3s as fish, though.) Almonds, cashews, pistachios, flaxseed, and chia seeds can also be taken as a replacement.

5. Select whole grains for a healthy heart

Whole grains are good sources of fiber and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. You can increase the amount of whole grains in a heart-healthy diet by making simple substitutions for refined grain products. Or be adventuresome and try a new whole grain, such as whole-grain farro, quinoa or barley.

Grain products to choose Grain products to limit or avoid
  • Whole-wheat flour
  • Whole-grain bread, preferably 100% whole-wheat bread or 100% whole-grain bread
  • High-fiber cereal with 5 g or more fiber in a serving
  • Whole grains such as brown rice, barley and buckwheat (kasha)
  • Whole-grain pasta
  • Oatmeal (steel-cut or regular)
  • White, refined flour
  • White bread
  • Muffins
  • Frozen waffles
  • Corn bread
  • Doughnuts
  • Biscuits
  • Quick breads
  • Cakes
  • Pies
  • Egg noodles
  • Buttered popcorn
  • High-fat snack crackers

6. Beans to control heart diseases

These versatile legumes contain more protein than any other plant food — just one cup provides a quarter of what we need each day. They also provide heart-healthy and stress-busting B vitamins, iron, and all-important calcium. Plus, they are considered “nature’s scrub brush” because one serving’s 15 grams of fiber goes through the intestines and sops cholesterol and takes it away (you know where). Use beans in soups and stews or create a vegetarian chili with kidney beans, tomatoes, carrots, celery, and a little bit of hot pepper. Puree a rinsed and drained can of white beans with two tablespoons of olive oil, a small clove of garlic, and salt and pepper for a Mediterranean-style veggie dip. Stock up on canned beans when they are on sale; dried beans are always less expensive than canned but take longer to soak and cook.

7. Pour some red wine for a better heart

Back to the importance of resveratrol, a compound with antioxidant properties, which can also help prevent cancer, according a study from the UK’s University of Leicester. Resveratrol is found in dark-skinned berries and grapes. Madirans and Cabernets typically contain large amounts of procyanidins, an antioxidant that helps reduce cholesterol and increases arterial health.

8. Dark chocolate to cure heart diseases

Several studies have now shown that dark chocolate may benefit your heart, including one in 2012 that found that daily chocolate consumption could reduce nonfatal heart attacks and stroke in people at high risk for these problems. The findings applied only to dark chocolate, meaning chocolate made up of at least 60-70% cocoa. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids called polyphenols, which may help blood pressure, clotting, and inflammation. Unfortunately, milk chocolate and most candy bars don’t make the grade when it comes to protecting your heart.

9. Fat-free or low fat milk or yogurt for heart diseases

“Dairy products are high in potassium, and that has a blood-pressure-lowering effect,” Johnson says. When you choose low-fat or fat-free dairy, you get little to no saturated fat, the kind of fat that can raise your cholesterol. Most fruits and vegetables also have some potassium, Johnson says. Bananas, oranges, and potatoes are especially good sources.

10. Chickpeas for a healthy heart

Chickpeas and other legumes (lentils, other kinds of beans) are a top-notch source of soluble fiber — the kind of fiber that can lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol. If you buy canned beans, look for low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties (sodium can raise your blood pressure). Rinse them in water to wash off any added salt.

15 foods that are good for your heart

  1. Eat fish high in omega-3s, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and trout.
  2. A handful of healthy nuts such as almonds or walnuts will satisfy your hunger and help your heart.
  3. Berries are chock full of heart-healthy phytonutrients and soluble fiber. Try blueberries, strawberries, cranberries or raspberries in cereal or yogurt.
  4. Flaxseeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and phytoestogens to boost heart health. Take them in ground or milled form to reap the greatest benefit.
  5. Oatmeal: the comfort-food nutrient powerhouse.
  6. Dark beans,such as kidney or black beans, are high in fiber, B-vitamins, minerals and other good stuff. Veggie chili, anyone?
  7. A 4-ounce glass of red wine (up to two for men and one for women per day) can help improve good (HDL) cholesterol levels.
  8. Try marinated tofu in a stir-fry with fresh veggies for a heart-healthy lunch or dinner.
  9. Red, yellow and orange veggies such as carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers and acorn squash are packed with carotenoids, fiber and vitamins to help your heart.
  10. Popeye was right – spinach packs a punch! Use it in sandwiches and salads instead of lettuce.
  11. Fruits such as oranges, cantaloupes and papaya are rich in beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium and fiber.
  12. Tender, sweet asparagus is filled with mighty nutrients such as beta-carotene, folate and fiber, and only provide 25 calories per cup, or 5 calories per large spear.
  13. Tomatoes – even sun-dried varieties in winter months – provide lycopene, vitamin C and alpha- and beta-carotene.
  14. Dark chocolate is good for your heart health, but just be sure that it’s at least 70 percent cocoa.
  15. Crisp, fresh broccoli florets dipped in hummus are a terrific heart-healthy snack with a whopping list of nutrients, including vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, calcium and fiberd. A high blood cholesterol level can lead to a buildup of plaques in your arteries, called atherosclerosis, which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Foods to avoid for a healthy heart

You can reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet by trimming fat off your meat or choosing lean meats with less than 10 percent fat. Add less butter, margarine and shortening when cooking and serving.

You can also use low-fat substitutions when possible for a heart-healthy diet. For example, top your baked potato with low-sodium salsa or low-fat yogurt rather than butter, or use sliced whole fruit or low-sugar fruit spread on your toast instead of margarine.

You may also want to check the food labels of some cookies, cakes, frostings, crackers and chips. Some of these — even those labeled “reduced fat” — may be made with oils containing trans fats. One clue that a food has some trans fat in it is the phrase “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredient list.

When you do use fats, choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats, found in certain fish, avocados, nuts and seeds, also are good choices for a heart-healthy diet. When used in place of saturated fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may help lower your total blood cholesterol. But moderation is essential. All types of fat are high in calories.

An easy way to add healthy fat (and fiber) to your diet is ground flaxseed. Flaxseeds are small brown seeds that are high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Some studies have found that flaxseeds may help lower cholesterol in some people, but more research is needed. You can grind the seeds in a coffee grinder or food processor and stir a teaspoon of them into yogurt, applesauce or hot cereal.