The heart is a vital organ in the human body. It literally works alongside us without stopping for a second. It is probably the first organ we know about- as the heart means life; when it stops, there is no life. In addition, it performs the most critical function of pumping blood to different body parts. Unfortunately, approximately 70 million people are diagnosed with heart disorders in India. It is a hazardous condition, and it is crucial to take care of your heart health.
With the number of people suffering from heart-related issues, the common phenomenon is that the solution to heart issues is only through medical intervention. However, on the brighter side, you can improve your heart health with a proper diet and a correct lifestyle. However, knowing what to eliminate is also essential to keep your heart health in good condition. Therefore, you should avoid some foods to keep your heart healthy.
If you do not consume a healthy diet, it can lead to heart disease. It happens because of plaque formation in the lining of arteries. The condition is called atherosclerosis, and it leads to blockage of blood flow in and out of the blood vessels. If this happens, enough blood does not reach all body parts. As a result, the oxygen supply gets disturbed, and breathing may become difficult. As a result, it can lead to severe health issues and even death. Thus proper dietary care for your heart health is necessary.
This article consists of all the foods you should avoid for a healthy heart.
Common Heart Diseases
Various diseases adversely affect the heart. Some of them include:
- Heart infections
- Damaged heart muscles
- Congenital heart diseases
- Coronary artery diseases
If you are genetically prone to have heart diseases, you may be at risk. It is especially true if one of your parents had got their issues detected at a young age. It can also be a factor in the case of genetic disorders, which can lead to poor heart structure or function of the heart muscles.
Ageing makes the heart muscles weaker. Therefore, people become more sensitive to sodium with age, increasing blood pressure and leading to cardiovascular disorders. It is possibly due to the thickening of the arteries. Therefore, the overall risk of heart diseases like high blood pressure can increase.
Another theory is that men are generally affected before women. However, after menopause, the risk increases in women. It is because of the hormonal changes that occur after menopause. These changes include reduced plasma oestrogen levels and high Luteinizing Hormone levels. Additionally, levels of Follicle Stimulating Hormone also increase. Therefore, it may significantly impact fat metabolism and lead to cardiac problems.
Nicotine constricts arteries. Carbon monoxide present in cigarette smoke damages the inner lining of the arteries. As a result, it increases the risk of atherosclerosis. Therefore, smokers may be at a higher risk of heart attacks than non-smokers.
Consumption of alcohol in moderation should not cause severe damage. However, alcoholics who drink excessively and regularly are more likely to develop heart diseases. Alcohol disturbs the arteries and causes irregular heartbeats. Therefore, it can result in conditions such as alcoholic cardiomyopathy and hypertension.
Unresolved stress can harm your arteries as it triggers the release of stress hormones like cortisol. In addition, it can disturb the cholesterol levels in the body. Therefore, stress increases the risk of heart diseases like hypertension and stroke.
Poor Dental Hygiene
Brushing, flossing and regular dental check-ups are crucial. If your mouth and teeth aren’t healthy, germs can enter your bloodstream. They may go to your heart, leading to endocarditis.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Uncontrolled hypertension can cause your arteries to stiffen and thicken. In addition, it may cause the veins to become narrow. As a result, it is difficult for the heart to pump blood. Ultimately, increasing blood pressure.
High cholesterol levels in the blood lead to plaque formation. It causes narrowing of arteries due to cholesterol buildup. As a result, you can develop atherosclerosis.
Diabetes raises your chances of developing heart disease. Obesity and high blood pressure are common risk factors in both illnesses. Diabetes can cause damage to the blood vessels.
Obese or overweight people are more prone to heart problems. In addition, the risk factor often increases by excess weight. In obese people, additional fat deposits can clog the arteries, which is high a risk factor for stroke.
A high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar diet can all contribute to heart disorders. Fats and sugars can interfere with blood flow and cause clogged arteries. In addition, a high salt diet can increase the sodium content in the body. As a result, it can cause fluid imbalance and increased blood pressure.
Lack of Physical Activity
The lack of exercise can lead to many types of heart disease. Having a physical workout routine can help one build endurance and reduce the risk of heart problems. However, having poor physical activity can lead to fat accumulation, which can be a reason for fat buildup in the arteries.
Worst Foods for the Heart
Most risk factors for heart diseases are associated with the foods we eat. However, some of them can lead to several conditions that affect our heart health. These include:
1. High Salt Foods
Salt is one of the most important determinants of high blood pressure and increased cardiovascular risk worldwide. Raised blood pressure is the dominant cause of death and disability in adults worldwide. It is responsible for approximately 50% of deaths from coronary heart disease and over 60% of those from a stroke. Evidence from various studies shows a consistent direct relationship between salt intake and blood pressure.
A study suggests that a 4.4 grams reduction in daily dietary intake of salt decreases blood pressure by about 4.2/2.1 mm Hg. In addition, population-based interventions indicate that blood pressure reduces salt intake. Therefore, a moderate reduction is essential worldwide to prevent and control high blood pressure.
2. Processed Meat
Processed meats like sausage and hot dogs tend to be rich in saturated fats. In addition, their preparation involves high quantities of salt. It is also an unhealthy combination for the heart. The curing of meats is suitable as a preservation technique. But it is not advised for people at risk of heart diseases. Cured meats can also cause high blood pressure due to high salt content. In addition, it can result in hypercholesterolemia.
Studies show that saturated fat accounts for more than half of the calories in bacon. It may elevate the bad cholesterol and increase the risk of cardiovascular attack or stroke. In addition, it’s high in sodium. Therefore, it can raise blood pressure. In that case, your heart needs to work harder to pump blood. An excess of sodium can lead to the risk of stroke and heart problems. Bacon also contains preservatives and leads to various other health issues.
Products like pizzas, toppings, burgers and patties also contain processed meat. Again, it is a dangerous combination for the heart, primarily due to the ingredients used in these foods. These ingredients may include refined flour, toppings and other seasonings, and high-fat content. Consumption of large quantities of unprocessed red meat like beef and pork can also harm your heart. Furthermore, red meat has a high saturated fat content and can increase cholesterol levels. Therefore, you must eat them in moderation. Lean cut meats can be a healthier alternative.
3. High Fat Foods
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that a high-fat diet can raise the risk of heart disease and cardiovascular illnesses, such as atherosclerosis. We generally feel that it happens when we consume high-fat diets for long periods. However, a recent study suggests that just one high-fat meal can cause damage to your heart.
High-fat meals bring several changes to the red blood cells. First, they interfere with the functioning of the red blood cells, which is not healthy for the heart. In addition, a high-fat diet can lead to an increase in an enzyme that implicates atherosclerosis and heart attack. The enzyme is called myeloperoxidase (MPO). It leads to a loss of elasticity in the blood vessels and the oxidation of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (good cholesterol).
Due to all these factors, you should avoid high-fat foods to prevent heart diseases. Some of the foods that you should avoid are:
Margarine, Butter and Cheese
Butter and cheese are full of saturated fats. As a result, they tend to raise cholesterol levels, especially LDL. Margarine is a healthier alternative to butter because it is plant fat. But the lesser-known truth is that it is rich in trans-fat, which can also worsen heart health. Trans-fats are known to elevate bad cholesterol and reduce the good cholesterol level. It also thickens the blood vessels, making it difficult to pump blood. These conditions lead to high blood pressure and ultimately heart attack or stroke.
Try using unsaturated fats like olive oil in place of saturated and trans-fat.
Fast foods like burgers are high in saturated fats. This type of fat is highly unhealthy for the heart because it contributes to high cholesterol levels and can increase blood pressure. It can be a leading cause of heart blockages. High-fat foods are the primary reason for the blockage of blood vessels.
Studies suggest that saturated fats negatively affect heart health and general body health when combined with carbohydrates. One more fact about fast food joints is that they use and reuse the cooking oil many times. That also makes the dishes harmful to the body.
Fried foods use excess oil for preparation. Evidence shows that fried foods’ oil and fat content can increase cholesterol levels. Again, it gets reused multiple times. It converts the oil into trans-fat, a type of bad cholesterol.
Eating fried foods can be very harmful for health. However, if you crave such snacks, you can prepare them with healthy oils. In addition, you can do it at home using homemade ghee or coconut oil. Anyhow, it is essential to limit your oil consumption to minimal amounts.
4. High Sugar Foods
A recently released study determined that a high-sucrose diet increases systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Furthermore, each sugary beverage you consume each day increases your chance of heart disease by 8%. Increased sugar levels can cause sodium to accumulate within a cell, leading to calcium buildup. It results in vasoconstriction and hypotension.
Overeating sugar can also affect your blood lipid levels. Adults consuming more sugar are more likely to lower good HDL cholesterol levels. In addition, your liver makes more LDL while reducing the amount of HDL in your body. The extra calories from a sugary diet also lead to more triglycerides, a type of blood fat that plays a role in your cholesterol health.
The high sugar foods that you should avoid are:
Soft drinks and other carbonated beverages are abundant in sugar content. For example, one can of sodas contains more sugar than the day’s requirement. Such sugar-rich drinks or sodas are the primary cause of diabetes.
People with diabetes are at high risk of developing heart diseases. A study suggests that high blood sugar levels can directly affect the blood vessels. This condition leads to inflammation of the heart. Therefore, sugary drinks can be
related to a higher risk of heart stroke.
Breakfast cereals are a processed form of these cereals. These are full of refined sugar. These refined carbohydrates tend to spike the blood glucose level quickly and lower them immediately. Due to this, we tend to become hungry very soon. That is the reason why we crave junk foods.
Bakery products like pastries and cookies are also responsible for raising blood sugar levels. These baked products contain refined flour. Therefore, they can elevate blood sugar levels. They also possess fat in the form of saturated or trans-fats. As we know, these are harmful to the heart.
You can try homemade cookies, muffins and cakes with whole wheat flour. Include olive, coconut or sesame oil instead. However, you should consume only a limited quantity.
Sodas are also abundant in sugars and therefore can cause heart problems. Diet sodas are not very different from regular ones. However, they are not very healthy just because it has the prefix diet in the name. On the contrary, studies show they can increase the risk of heart disease. In addition, artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose can harm the heart.
What Should You Eat to Improve Heart Health?
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals. Therefore, they are beneficial for heart health. Furthermore, fruits and vegetables are free from saturated and trans fats. In addition, they contain reasonable amounts of fibre. Consequently, they help us maintain an ideal weight. A healthy weight is an essential factor in heart diseases. Some fruits and vegetables suggested for good heart health are beans, tomatoes, apples and carrots.
Walnuts are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, magnesium and manganese. These are very good for heart health. For example, studies show that consistent walnut consumption reduces harmful cholesterol levels and increases good cholesterol levels.
Almonds are rich in vitamins and minerals. They are also a good source of unsaturated fats to improve heart health. Many research studies show that almonds are positively associated with reduced cardiovascular diseases.
Interestingly, dark chocolate can help improve heart function. In addition, studies suggest that consuming good quality dark chocolate in moderation reduces the risk of various heart disorders like stroke.
Green tea has numerous benefits. One among them is protecting the heart. They possess polyphenols that can have cardio-protective properties.
Ways to Maintain a Healthy Heart
- Keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in control is the most crucial step. It can help in preventing heart diseases. Monitor them regularly and adjust your diet accordingly. Always have a blood pressure monitor at home for emergencies and regular check-ups. Even your nearby pharmacies and clinics have the facility to measure blood pressure. Consult a dietitian for personalised diet advice.
- Similarly, blood sugar levels should be kept in check. Diabetes is a primary reason for heart disease. A glucose metre should be handy to check sugar levels regularly. If you feel prone to a weak heart, you should follow these steps carefully. If you have diabetes, consult your physician regularly to keep blood sugar levels in check.
- A heart rate monitor is a device that measures your heartbeat rate. It is helpful for athletes and sportspeople. However, anyone can use it to track their heart rate. You should always watch it because abnormal heart rates can be warning signs. In that case, consult a physician.
- A pedometer is a device that counts your steps. Increase in the physical. Activity is good for heart health. It is good to have 10,000 steps in a day. Thirty minutes of physical activity a day can do wonders for your heart health. A healthy weight controls most of the problems.
- Never skip your medications for conditions like obesity, cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes. Instead, consult a physician and work out the best management strategies.
- A healthy diet is essential for maintaining a healthy heart. Therefore, foods low in sugar, salt and fat are vital. In addition, a mindful, balanced diet that controls blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and all metabolic disorders is advisable for a better functioning heart.
- Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
- Stress management is essential in maintaining good heart health.
The relationship between nutrition and heart disease is becoming stronger as new research emerges. From blood pressure to cholesterol levels and triglycerides, what you eat can affect practically every facet of your health, including heart health. These heart-healthy foods can help maintain your heart. In addition, they may reduce your risk of heart disease if you eat them as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What three foods do cardiologists say to avoid?
A. Processed food, high-fat food, and high sugar foods are bad for heart health. High sugar levels can directly affect the blood vessels and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Cardiologists suggest avoiding pizzas, fried snacks, pastries, soft drinks, and diet soda.
2. What three foods do cardiologists say to eat?
Cardiologists, in their research, suggest eating vitamins and minerals-rich food and food free from saturated and trans fats. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and green tea are healthy foods that keep your heart in good condition. They reduce bad cholesterol and improve muscle health.
3. Which drink is best for the heart?
A. Juices made of pomegranate and beetroot and green tea are some drinks that are good for the heart. Drinking lots of water is the best solution for heart problems. 6-8 cups of water each day will help with blood pumping and blood detox.
4. Is egg good for the heart?
Yes, studies found out that eating an egg can reduce the risk of heart disease by 11% as they are rich in nutrients like proteins, iron, zinc, vitamin- A, B, D, and E. One large egg every day is perfect for the heart.
5. What food makes the heart stronger?
A. Healthy food like leafy green vegetables, nuts like walnuts, beans, whole grains, and fatty fish and fish oil are great to strengthen your heart. You can also eat dark chocolate, fruits like berries, and avocados. In addition, eat small meals multiple times a day, and reduce your oil intake.
6. What is the best breakfast for heart patients?
A. Heart patients can include food like leafy vegetables and nuts in their breakfast. Some tasty breakfast recipes are whole grain bread, avocado toast, and oatmeal with berries and nuts. You can also have egg in an omelette or boiled egg or a nice burrito wrap filled with greens and veggies.
7. What are the signs of a bad heart?
A. Symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, pain and numbness in arms and legs, and pain in your upper torso area are signs of a bad heart condition. If you experience any of these signs, it means that your blood vessels are clogged. Eat healthy food and consult a cardiologist immediately.
8. Are bananas bad for heart patients?
A. No, new research reveals that eating a banana each day can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Banana is full of nutrients like potassium, and it also helps to clear blockages occurring in arteries. It is a healthy fruit that promotes blood pumping, and you can include it in your daily diet.
9. Is chicken bad for your heart?
A. It depends on the quality of chicken and the form in which you are consuming it. Chicken is good for the heart if skinless, unprocessed, lean, and fresh. Deep-frying chicken is harmful for the heart as deep frying causes an increase in fat, calories. Saturated fats in the blood increase the bad cholesterol harmful to the heart.
10. Is Apple good for the heart?
A. Yes, apples contain polyphenols that reduce stroke risk and blood pressure. It is also rich in soluble fibre that lowers cholesterol levels. So eating one apple each day has a lot of health benefits. It also promotes weight loss and improves brain health.
11. What causes blockage in the heart?
A. Blood vessels in the heart get blocked due to the build up of fat, cholesterol and other substances. It leads to interference in easy blood flow. If blood flow is interrupted, the whole body will not receive adequate oxygen to function correctly.
12. Is rice good for the heart?
A. Yes, rice is gluten-free. But if you have a heart problem, prefer brown rice over white rice as it is a good source of dietary fibre and magnesium. These reduce the risk of heart disease. Excessive consumption of white rice is not the best for heart patients.