What Factors Contribute to Heart Disease?
Healthy diets: focus on food, not nutrients.Solid evidence from two large prospective studies, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, showed that a healthy lifestyle pattern (healthy diet, physical activity and avoiding smoking) dramatically reduces the risk of cardiovascular events over a long-term follow-up. For decades, researchers investigating the crosslink between diet and heart diseases dedicated most of their efforts on individual nutrients, mainly cholesterol and distinct types of fats. While these observations paved the way for current fundamental principles in nutrition, they have also generated some misconceptions and myths about what a heart-healthy diet is. What we should never forget is the fact that people eat food, not nutrients. People with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains, nuts, poultry, and vegetable oils reduce the risk of heart disease by 30%, as well as a 33% lower risk of diabetes, and a 20% lower risk of stroke. Additionally, a healthy heart should contain only moderate consumption of alcohol, if any.
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Nutrition for Health and Sustainability
What does maintaining a healthy weight mean?Excess weight and an extra-large waist size are major contributors to CVC and are risk factors for other conditions such as type 2 diabetes. Evidence supporting these facts come from decades of research. Among others, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, a study including over one million women, showed that body-mass index (BMI) was a strong risk factor for CVC and that the incidence of coronary heart disease increases progressively with BMI. The study demonstrated that women who gained about 10 kg (22 pounds) were up to three times more likely to present with CVD, increased arterial blood pressure, diabetes, than those who gained about 2.5 kg (or five pounds) or less. How can we translate the observations of this study into good practical advice? First, we have to remember that weight and height are linked. The taller you are, the more you weigh. That’s why researchers use BMI as an easy measure to account for both these variables. A healthy BMI is under 25 kg/m2. Overweight is defined as a BMI of 25 to 29.9 kg/m2, and obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 kg/m2. Secondly, along with BMI, waist size should be considered when assessing the risk for CVD. Indeed, assessing the waist size in some groups can be even more informative than BMI to predict the risk for future CVD events. This is the case, for instance, of people who cannot be classified as overweight according to their BMI. Men should aim for a waist size below 102 cm (40 inches) and women should aim for a waist size below 88 cm (35 inches).
Be active! But how much exercise per day?Exercising is good for our wellbeing. Regular physical activity not only reduces the risk of CVD but it can also help improve sleep patterns and mood, as well as control blood pressure and keep weight in check. Besides, it has been shown that in the elderly population, physical activity improves cognitive function and reduces the risk of falling. Having said that, how much physical activity should be recommended? All in all, while we should remember that getting any amount of exercise is better than none, people don’t need to have marathon training to achieve concrete health benefits. A 30-minute fast walk five days of the week will provide adequate important benefits for most people. Conversely, people with a sedentary lifestyle (such as those spending much time per each watching television, sitting, or riding in cars) showed an increased risk for CVD.
Do not smokeTobacco use (in any form) is an unhealthy habit significantly contributing to CVD. When analyzing in a prospective way more than 100,000 women, researchers found that more than 64% of deaths among active smokers were attributable to cigarette smoking. Importantly, they also observed that by quitting smoking, there is a reduced risk of CVD, reaching the level of “never-smoker” people 20 years after quitting.
ConclusionIn summary, how impactful can we be by suggesting the mentioned four key things? Following a healthy lifestyle may reduce the risk of coronary artery disease by over 80% – definitely a solid investment for our future. Authors: Dr. Savino Sciascia, and Dr. Gregory Winston Gilcrease.
Nutrition for Health and Sustainability
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