Eat Your Way To A Healthier Heart
By Dee Miller, canfitpro PRO TRAINER
When we talk about coronary artery disease as being the number two killer of Canadians, we often forget that it has been around for many years. In 3000 BC, there was a confirmed presence of atherosclerotic lesions in the arteries of ancient Egyptian mummies (Allam et al 2011). Coronary artery disease is also described in ancient Egyptian writings on tombs, papyri, and mortuary transcriptions (MacKinnon 1987). The myocardial theory of angina pectoris was proposed by Allen Burns in 1809. He described this as a type of lesion formation in the vessels of the heart (MacKinnon 1987). Electrocardiography was used in 1912 by James Bryan Herrick to show how coronary artery disease impedes the heart’s electrical rhythm (MacKinnon 1987).
Let’s get back to 2018. What can we do as fitness professionals to help our clients find their way to a healthy heart. The stats tell us that nine in 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke. It’s a scary fact that almost 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through healthy habits like being active and eating healthy.
We know that exercise has been shown to lower bad cholesterol, especially when combined with a heart-healthy diet. Both resistance training and aerobic exercise have been shown to increase HDL-C and improve overall blood lipid levels.
Teaching our clients the importance of a healthy, balanced diet is one of the most valuable things we can do. Eating whole, natural, nutrient-dense foods such as fresh vegetables (3-6 servings per day) and fruit (2-4 servings per day) is a simple way to do this. Fresh vegetables are packed full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fibre. 75% of daily vegetable intake should be raw, so the nutrients are not dramatically reduced when cooked.
Some great vegetable choices include:
Celery – Contains a compound called phthalide, which is great for high blood pressure. It is also great at relaxing the arterial wall muscles making blood flow easier, allowing your heart to work less.
Kale – This leafy green is made up of a whole range of heart healthy nutrients including fibre, omega 3’s and potassium.
Tomatoes – These are high in heart-healthy potassium and a good source of the antioxidant lycopene.
Carrots – They are great for “sweeping” excess cholesterol out of the intestines.
Garlic – This super food helps lower blood pressure and is good for preventing hardening of the arteries.
Some great fruit choices include:
Grapes – That purple colour is the phytonutrient anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of heart disease.
Avocado –Full of heart-protecting fats, they contain monounsaturated fats, which helps to lower cholesterol and potassium, reducing blood pressure.
Dried Apricots – These are loaded with heart-healthy potassium, but make sure you purchase unsulphured fruit.