Nutrition for Heart Health

nutrition for heart healthGood nutrition for heart health is not simply a matter of avoiding over-processed, sugar and fat laden foods; it is as much about what you do eat as what you don’t eat. Having a kale and pistachio salad once a week with a glass of soy milk and a tablespoon or two of flaxseed will not conquer high blood pressure and heart disease alone, especially if the rest of the week’s meals consist of burgers, fries, cheesy pasta dishes and gallons of coffee, beer and wine.

Heart Healthy ‘Diets’

There are many diets proposed for those with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and congestive heart disease, usually involving an element of sodium reduction, lower intakes of saturated fats and trans fats, and simple sugars. The DASH diet, the Ornish diet, the TLC diet and even the so-called Mediterranean Diet are all thrown around as ways of lowering blood pressure, improving heart function and reducing the risk of myocardial infarction (MI).

A Paradigm Shift in Heart Healthy Eating Habits

Following any strict diet can be a challenge and many patients struggle with ‘adherence’ and end up resorting to unhealthy eating habits through guilt, convenience and for comfort. Improved education about nutrition and heart health has the potential to change this paradigm from one of disease and recrimination to one of health and wellness for both body and mind. Rather than following a diet of any kind it is preferable to incorporate healthier lifestyle and nutrition habits into the daily routine, to change the way of thinking about food and health rather than considering any dietary changes a challenge, a restriction or a lessening of pleasure in eating.

Nutrition Education

Hospital dieticians and physicians may know enough to inform patients of the things they would be best avoiding eating but it can be difficult on the frontline of healthcare to stay abreast of new research into nutrition and heart health and ensure that beneficial foods are also recommended. Most physicians receive only minimal training in nutrition during medical school, although some take it upon themselves to engage in more holistic healthcare practices for the benefit of patients.

Faddish Diets

Following news headlines proclaiming the use of chocolate for heart health or how beer combats heart disease without an understanding of general nutrition for good health can easily leads to faddish behaviour and few, if any, long-lasting benefits or patients. The onus needs to be on all-round education, overall dietary improvements and instilling confidence in every individual to make informed and healthy choices about nutrition and heart health.

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