Cardiovascular disease is among the most common causes of death for men and women around the world. Unfortunately, heart disease is also a major issue in Pakistan. However, measures can be taken in order to reduce the risk.
Nutrition plays a key role in preventing cardiovascular diseases. Processed, fried, sugary foods can worsen heart health by affecting cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and triglycerides. These factors increase the risk of heart disease.
If you are looking to improve your heart health, it is best to introduce a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that can help decrease inflammation by supplying the necessary vitamins and minerals to the body.
Dark leafy greens like rocket, sarsoon saag (mustard greens), and spinach are especially great for heart health as they are rich sources of dietary nitrates and vitamin K. Nitrates can decrease arterial stiffness and blood pressure. While vitamin K can improve blood clotting and guards the arteries.
Tomatoes are a beautiful fruit packed with lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid that contributes to the pigment of the fruit. It has powerful antioxidant properties that have been shown to improve heart health by reducing risk of stroke or cardiac risk.
In order to increase the strength of lycopene, it is highly recommended eating tomatoes with a healthy source of fat to optimize lycopene strength. Fortunately, tomatoes are widely used in Pakistani dishes.
It is also recommended to avoid vegetable oils such as canola, soybean, and safflower. Instead, opt for olive oil which is low in saturated fat and is high in monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fatty acids can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Plus, olive oil is high in antioxidants which can protect the heart.
Fatty fish are incredible sources of omega-3 fatty acids which have extensive heart benefits. Fatty fish include tuna, sardine, salmon, and mackerel. Regular omega-3 fatty acid consumption reduces the likelihood of arrhythmias and lowers blood triglycerides.
Nuts are another incredible heart-healthy food. Nuts like almonds and walnuts are incredibly dense in cardiovascular disease-preventing nutrients. Almonds are high in dietary fiber which helps balance cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease. Walnuts can help prevent cardiovascular disease due to its high mineral content of copper, manganese, and magnesium.
Additional steps to take to prevent heart disease
Stop smoking: Tobacco not only shortens the lifespan but also majorly contributes to heart disease. Due to nicotines’ addictive characteristics, it is a hard habit to beat but is absolutely essential for optimal heart health.
Exercise: Moving regularly even if it is a 30-minute walk has a profound impact on heart health. Exercise can also help one maintain a healthy weight which is important.
Reduce stress: Stress contributes to cardiovascular disease by unbalancing cholesterol levels and irregulating blood pressure levels. Stress-reducing tactics include namaze (prayer), meditation, journaling, yoga and more.
The writer is a certified functional nutritionist