Importance of Heart-healthy Foods

Cholesterol is a wax-like fatty substance, found naturally in our body cells. It is essential in the production of hormones, and metabolic function. Consumption of dairy products, processed foods and red meat can release in the blood stream high cholesterol, especially the bad LDL cholesterol.

When there is too much LDL cholesterol in the blood, it leads to formation of a substance called plaque on the walls of arteries. Over time, it hardens, narrows the arteries and restricts blood flow. This condition is responsible for various major health issues like heart attack, kidney failure and brain stroke, depending on where the arteries are blocked.

High cost of traditional heart surgery

 Plaque formation in the arteries can cut off supply of nutrients and oxygenated blood vital to the heart. Use of artificial aids called stents, made of expensive synthetic materials is one way of treating a blockage in the heart.

A stent is inserted from one part of the body (usually the groin) and guided through the blood vessels to the area of blockage. Then using different mechanisms, the stent is kept in place and the blockage cleared.

The whole procedure is called angioplasty: depending on the extent of blockage, the size and specifications of the stent, and the number of days of hospitalization involved, the entire treatment could cost you between USD 15,000 – 50,000 if you don’t hold a valid medical insurance. In severe cases of multiple blocks, a bypass heart surgery is essential, which is even more costly.

Managing cholesterol with exercise

As doctors and elders in the family keep telling you, regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage high cholesterol. It increases the level of HDL, the good cholesterol, and reduces the level of triglycerides (the most common type of fat in the body), thus reducing the risks of heart ailments.

However, as many patients might tell you, regular exercising has its own difficulties. Overweight people find it challenging to exercise enough to reduce weight significantly. Patients with arthritis and with other serious health issues find it painful to exercise. Joining a gym class has its own downsides.

But there is no denying that exercise has beneficial effects in the management of high cholesterol. However, there is something more fundamental and crucial that should be addressed first to resolve the issue of plaque formation in the arterial walls.

The root of the issue

The root of the issue is our dietary intake and its nutrition status. We need to be acutely aware of the crucial distinction between foods that are heart healthy and those that are not. Consuming the former protects your heart and keeps it healthy. Eating the latter is asking for trouble – injurious to your heart, starving you of essential nutrients and promoting plaque formation. Isn’t prevention better than cure?

Dieticians and nutritionists recommend an intake of four to five servings of fruit and/or vegetables every day, with a combination of raw and cooked vegetables. Avoid high-fat meat items such as bacon and sausages, whole milk dairy products, and processed foods made of refined flour and white sugar. You can take instead skinless poultry, fish or sea-food low-fat dairy products, whole-grain breads, cereals and pasta regularly.

‘We are what we eat’ is an adage full of wisdom that is good to remember all our lives. A healthy diet stands you in good stead to prevent/fight heart diseases. Combine it with a heart-healthy lifestyle; you are sure to enjoy the dividends in the form of good health, abundant energy and plenty of vitality for a much longer life.

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