Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, for men and women. In the US, about 1 in 4 deaths, are attributed to heart disease or approximately 660,000 deaths. Roughly 30.3 million people, in the US, have heart disease.
Heart disease is caused from a build up of plaque on the walls of the arteries, causing them to narrow. Blood flow is restricted which reduces flow through the arteries, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
While medications can manage the risk factors for heart disease, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, all medications have side effects and do not reverse the risk.
Heart disease can be reversed and prevented with a healthy lifestyle including:
-A healthy, plant-based diet
-Little or no alcohol intake
-Healthy body weight
A healthy diet is key to preventing heart disease, along with many other chronic conditions like diabetes, and cancer. If your physician hasn’t discussed specifics of a healthy diet it may be because most received only a few hours of nutrition training in medical school. To prevent or even reverse heart disease, move to a plant-based diet, with a focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and legumes.
While there are so many plant-based foods that will improve your health and reduce the risk for heart disease, here are some of the heavy hitters:
- Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are rich in antioxidants and improve vascular (relating to the vessels that move blood etc) function and reduce arterial stiffness. Target 1 cup per day. Frozen berries are the best way to get your berry fix, unless you are able to pick them fresh!
- Leafy green like kale, spinach, and collard greens are rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals, including a B vitamin-folate that helps to prevent heart disease. Include at least 1 cup per day.
- Beans and legumes are a great way to get your protein along with a nice serving of fiber and minerals. Unlike meat, beans and legumes deliver protein without saturated fat, which can lead to heart disease. Try a wide variety-white, black, pinto, kidney, lentils, peas and chickpeas. Throw them in soups, on a salad, mash them to make spreads, or even bake with them. Use half the meat in your tacos and add some black beans. Try making pasta sauce with lentils instead of meat. Beans and legumes are more affordable, portable, and healthier than meat. Include ½-1 cup each day.
- Walnuts and almonds provide good fat, fiber and protein and can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good cholesterol). Sprinkle nuts on oatmeal, salad, or snack on them plain. They are calorie and fat dense, so stick with ¼ cup each day.
- Avocados contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help improve cholesterol, increasing HDL. Use this beautiful green super food as a spread on sandwiches instead of cheese, as a salad or taco topper, in guacamole, or even plain right out of the skin. Enjoy ½ to a whole avocado each day.
- Oats are a whole-grain that provide soluble fiber that can lower cholesterol and help prevent heart disease. Top your oatmeal with berries and nuts to up the disease fighting power of this great, anytime meal. Unprocessed, steel cut oats offer the most bang for your buck. Make sure to read the label on packaged oatmeal that are often stripped of some of the fiber and loaded with added sugar. Enjoy a bowl of hot, steel cut oats every morning.
- Chia and flaxseeds are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, helping to lower cholesterol and reduce blood pressure. Sprinkle them in oatmeal, yogurt, or add them to baked goods. Include 2 tablespoons of flax meal each day.
Lifestyle factors, including what you eat, will impact your risk of heart disease. With a plant-based diet, you can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and even reverse it. Take control of your heart health, by eating foods that come from the earth and begin planning for your long, adventurous life.
by Christy Coughlin