IN the wake of World Heart Day last week and World Restart a Heart Day later this month, the Heart and Stroke Foundation has put together some vital information on heart health.
In South Africa, 255 people die from heart disease every day despite the fact that 80% of such diseases can be prevented through diet and exercise.
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Healthy food choices can positively impact cardiovascular health and immunity in a matter of weeks and, together with moderate physical activity, can reduce the risk of heart disease and play a vital role in maintaining an optimal immune response.
‘Smoking or vaping, drinking too much, diets high in salt and sugar and high cholesterol all contribute to declining heart health, among other influences,’ said Professor Pamela Naidoo of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
‘We cannot overlook the fact that people are also genetically predisposed to selected medical conditions depending on their family history, and these people especially should heed the advice to take heart health more seriously.’
Processed foods are a problem
Whether a salad mix, pre-cooked ‘healthy’ meal, a frozen meal or even some fruits and vegetables, much of the food we consume is processed.
Some processed foods contain added ingredients while others are fortified to add nutrients.
Even some organic foods can be processed.
But the good news is that, according to Heart.org, 74% of consumers are opting for less sodium in processed foods and almost 50% have tried cutting down on processed foods.
The foundation urges consumers to read food labels, look for heart-friendly products and swap high processed foods for healthier options.
Nutrients from food vs supplements
Eating the right food is one of the most important steps to a healthy heart as the nutrients gained from certain foods, including folic acid, magnesium and omega 3 fatty acids, not only protect against heart disease but benefit overall health.
Omega 3 fatty acids are particularly good in maintaining good heart health as they assist in reducing blood pressure and blood clotting, as well as irregular heartbeats.
Not only do omega 3 acids have a positive impact on heart health, but also on brain health as they benefit our memory and brain function, as well as our mood.
They have been shown to lower bad cholesterol and blood pressure, and raise good cholesterol levels which can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Omega 3 fatty acids are also known to improve the health and strength of joints by increasing the amount of calcium in our bones.
‘Eating real food is always better than taking supplements. Nothing can substitute it. Tinned pilchards and sardines are an ideal way to incorporate more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet, and to assist in taking care of your heart health,’ said Professor Naidoo.
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