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7 Simple Dietary Changes That Can Help Fight Heart Disease

Heart problems are a massive health concern for millions of Americans. Every year, over 600,000 Americans die from heart disease and more than 700,000 suffer a heart attack, but what makes these statistics so heartbreaking is that most of those deaths can be easily avoided by taking action earlier in life.

Diet is recognised as the number one factor in helping to prevent heart problems -- and knowledge is accumulating all the time. Here are some of the recent findings from nutritional experts that can help you to avoid high blood pressure, blocked arteries and the devastating consequences of heart disease.

Focus on Quality Not Quantity

Although there is a link between obesity and heart disease, the link between taking in a high number of calories and poor heart health is not so clear cut. In fact, a 2015 study found that it is far better to concentrate on your nutrient intake, rather than the sheer amount of calories that you eat.

The study found that eating regular quantities of omega-3 fatty acids, nuts and olive oil had greater benefits for heart health than just restricting calorie intake. Nutritionists now recommend eating a handful of nuts every day (including a mixture of hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds) or a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Not only will this cut your risk of heart disease, but it helps to protect against strokes as well.

Stick to Dark Chocolate

If you plan to tailor your diet to protect your heart, that doesn't mean cutting out all sweets and treats. For many people, the prospect of cutting out candy is a nightmare scenario, but recent studies suggest that there is no need to do so.

The secret is sticking to dark chocolate, not candy bars that are crammed with sugar and other chemicals. But it's not the lower sugar level that makes dark chocolate so good for the heart. Instead, it's a chemical called resveratrol (which is also found in red wine). Resveratrol acts by limiting the amount of sugar carried by the bloodstream, so it's handy for those at risk of diabetes as well.

Experiment With Seaweed

We hear a lot about "superfoods", many of which are hyped up by the media without any basis in fact. However, nutritional experts have found many lesser known foods that genuinely do have striking benefits for heart health, and seaweed is one of them.

Seaweed contains a set of compounds known as bioactive peptides, which act in a similar way to ACE inhibitor drugs - reducing blood pressure and guarding against heart attacks. They may be one reason why people from East Asian cultures where seaweed is a key part of the diet tend to have lower rates of heart disease. Why not try wrapping seaweed sheets around vegetables or seafood in a sushi-style snack?

Up Your Protein Intake To Help Your Heart

It's not just vegetarians who can help their heart with the right diet. A recent study suggests that people who eat large amounts of protein also tend to have better heart health. In fact, eating more amino acids is thought to be just as effective in preventing heart attacks as stopping smoking -- so it's a vital part of the heart health puzzle.

Nutritional scientists recommend eating a balance of vegetable and animal proteins. Foods like broccoli, greens and lentils contain different amino acids to meat. The proteins in vegetables tend to be linked to reduced blood pressure, while meat proteins help to soften arteries - and both effects are essential in heading off heart problems in later life.