The food we eat matters a lot when it comes to keeping our hearts healthy. Dwelling on the right diet reduces the risk of one developing heart diseases and stroke. Watching out what you eat on a daily basis significantly aids in lowering the cholesterol level, controlling blood pressure and blood sugar levels, as well as maintaining a healthy weight, all of which ensure a healthy heart ever. Experts say many foods can help keep your heart at its best.
Eat Vegetables and fruits to stay away from heart attacks
According to Prof Joseph Mucumbisti, the president of Rwanda Heart Foundation, a diet based on fruits, nuts, vegetables, legumes and whole grains helps prevent heart attacks. This is because they are rich in antioxidants which reduce cellular deaths in the heart muscle.
He adds that consuming such diet stops arteriosclerosis (the thickening and hardening of the walls of the arteries, occurring typically in old age) that can result into heart attack. He says eating a diet with low plant-based foods and those rich in saturated fats, coupled with lack of exercises leads to heart problems.
“Inability of the heart to pump the blood (cardiac failure), can be caused by a weakened heart due to lack of nutrients needed for it to function properly. Such nutrients include vitamin B, potassium, calcium and magnesium,” says Mucumbisti.
He, however, notes that excess fluids in the body lead to cardiac failure, explaining that the fluid is brought about by excess consumption of salt, or can also be due to kidney function.
For one to avoid cardiac failure, Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist and dietician at Amazon Complimentary Therapy in Remera, Kigali, says one should nourish the heart with a good diet. He says examples of such a diet include broccoli, grapefruits and peas.
On the other hand, Kamanzi says, reducing or completely eliminating sodium and alcoholic beverages keeps cardiac failure at bay.
Maintaining normal blood pressure
Kamanzi says maintaining normal blood pressure is essential to keep your heart healthy.
He advises that one should try their best to stay away from processed products, canned, bottled tomatoes, chicken skin, pizza, coffee and sugar, among others.
Kamanzi adds that working out at least 30 minutes in a day also aids in bringing the blood pressure to a normal range. Eating foods rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat can improve blood cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease.
He says omega 3 fatty acids, which are in foods like soyabean and fish, have good fats that are required to keep the heart healthy.
On the other hand, Kamanzi says all types of berries are a good source when it comes to stroke of the heart.
“For instance, berries contain polyphenols antioxidants that clean up damage, causing free radicals in your body. They again produce fiber and vitamin C, which are both essential when it comes to lowering the risk of one getting a stroke attack,” he says.
Rene Tabaro, a nutritionist at King Faisal Hospital, Kigali, says consuming a diet that is fat-free or low fat milk lowers your cholesterol level.
Dairy products like yogurt are high in potassium with a blood pressure lowering effect and contain little saturated fat that lowers the cholesterol level.
Monitor your cholesterol level
Another important thing for the heart is olive oil, says Tabaro.
“Olive oil is ideal in lowering saturated fats that are mostly found in meat, whole milk, and butter. Staying away from such fats is important because they can raise bad cholesterol, leading to fat build up inside your arteries,” he says.
Tabaro notes that avocado is also a good fruit as it improves the well=being of the heart.
Avocado has fats which are capable of lowering bad cholesterol.
“Limiting how much saturated and trans-fats one consumes is important as it reduces the blood cholesterol as well as lowering the risk of coronary artery diseases,” says Joseph Uwiragiye, the head of nutrition department at University Teaching Hospital, Kigali (CHUK).
He explains that a high blood cholesterol level can result in a buildup of plaques in your arteries which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Carrots, tomatoes, broccoli and leafy greens are just some of the foods that are good for the heart.