Preventing Heart Disease Through Dietary Changes

Heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in the United States, taking over 600,000 lives in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fortunately, many of the factors influencing its risk are controllable. Lifestyle changes such as cholesterol and blood pressure can lessen the risk of developing this killer disease.

Lowering Cholesterol

High cholesterol poses a risk due to the development of hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. The build-up of plaque on the inner linings of blood vessels reduces the space through which blood must flow. The result is an increase of pressure within arteries or hypertension.

Another risk exists regarding clots. Clots can break off from the blood vessels and impede blood flow. This is the process which causes a heart attack. Blood flow to the heart is restricted, causing damage that often is life threatening.

 Reducing saturated fat in the diet can reduce the risk by limiting the ingredients needed to produce plague. These insoluble fats contribute to fat build-up, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Trans fat poses an equally great risk by increasing the levels of LDL or bad cholesterol. They also lower HDL, or good cholesterol, which provides a natural means of controlling cholesterol.

Reducing Insulin Resistance

Diabetes is one health risk of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a collection of health conditions, which, taken as a whole, increase your risk of heart disease. Insulin resistance is a pre-cursor to diabetes. Insulin resistance can be controlled by maintaining a healthy weight. Other effects show the relationship between diet and disease prevention.

Certain foods such as cinnamon can help control insulin resistance. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that consuming cinnamon helped participants maintain a healthy blood sugar level. Eating low glycemic foods such as nuts and lean proteins can have a similar effect.

Weight Control

Heart disease risk can be controlled by maintaining a normal weight, explains the American Heart Association. Weighing less puts less pressure on the heart and the cardiovascular system. Simply, less weight is less work for the heart. It’s simply a matter of physics; it takes more force to move a greater weight than a lesser weight.

Staying within the recommended caloric intake can provide a means for maintaining weight once at a healthy body mass index (BMI). For example, an active woman aged 31 to 50 should consume 2,200 calories per day for weight maintenance, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

While heart disease takes more lives than other conditions, its risk factors can be controlled through simple diet changes. While genetic risks cannot be controlled, a good diet and healthy weight maintenance are obtainable by most healthy individuals.