Excessive cholesterol can develop fatty deposits in blood vessels, leading to serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease. A healthy diet and lifestyle changes are the best weapons to fight against cardiovascular disease. Making the simple steps for long-term benefits to the heart is highly recommended.
Healthy diet guidelines to prevent heart disease
The American Heart Association (AHA) publishes dietary and lifestyle recommendations for general heart health. These recommendations are for healthy adults as well as people who already have health problems such as coronary artery disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The recommendations include:
- Eat a variety of fruit and vegetable servings every day. Dark green, deep orange or yellow fruits and vegetables are especially nutritious. Examples include spinach, carrots, peaches and berries;
- Eat a variety of grain products every day including whole-grain foods that contain lots of fiber and nutrients. Examples of whole grains include oats, whole wheat bread and brown rice;
- Eat foods which are low in saturated fat and trans fat . Try to choose the lean meats and meat alternatives such as beans or tofu or beans. Foods are preferred to be cooked by boiling, steaming and grilling;
- Eat fish at least 2 times each week. Oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for the heart. These fish include tuna, salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring and sardines;
- Eat nonfat and low-fat dairy products e.g. yoghurt, cheese and skim milk;
- Eat polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats such as canola, soy bean, sunflower seed, corn and olive oils to replace saturated fats e.g. butter, margarine and lard;
- Limit the consumption of added sugar in food and drinks while consuming proper portion of meals;
- Limit sodium intake e.g. fish source, salt and salty sauces;
- Limit alcohol intake to 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women; and
- Increase the amount and intensity of physical activity to burn more calories. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (or an equal combination of both) each week.
Source: The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations.
How to safely drink alcohol
Excessive alcohol drinking increases the risk of developing serious health problems including cardiovascular disease. Ideally, alcohol drinking should be avoided. If not applicable, moderate alcohol consumption; 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women is recommended.
- In each week, 2 days must be alcohol-free.
- In each week, alcohol intake should be limited 7-21 drinks (average per day is up to 3 drinks).
- 1 drink of wine = 140 cc.
- 1 drink of beer = 330 cc. (equal to 1 served can)
- 1 drink of spirit 40 degrees = 40 cc. (one shot)
Besides consuming healthy vegetables and fruits those considerably help to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol level, lifestyle modification also plays a major role. To reduce possible risk of developing heart diseases, it is highly recommended to have healthy diet and sufficient rest as well as appropriate and regular exercise. More importantly, annual health checkups and heart screening are essential in order to detect any abnormalities as soon as possible. Early diagnosis greatly contributes to timely and effective treatments.