* Include more oily fish, nuts, seeds and oils in your diet
The essential fatty acids in these foods are important for the prevention of heart disease. The fish oils help to lower cholesterol, thin the blood and lessen the risk of narrowing of the arteries. Walnuts have been shown to be helpful in preventing heart attacks, again due to the essential fatty acid content. A study of 26,500 members of a religious sect called Seventh Day Adventists, who do not drink or smoke, found that those who ate a handful of nuts at least five times a week had half the heart problems of those who rarely ate any nuts. This underlines the crucial importance of diet in preventing heart disease.
* Eat more fresh vegetables and fruit and also dried fruit
Fibre found in potatoes, carrots, apples, beans and oats binds up the cholesterol and carries it out of the body. Vitamin С found in fruit and vegetables is important because low levels of vitamin С have been linked to increased levels of cholesterol.
* Eat more soya
Soya beans have been found to help control cholesterol levels so should be included in the diet in the form of tofu, soya milk, miso, tempeh and tamari (wheat-free soy sauce made in the traditional way). Soya beans contain more protein than milk without the saturated fat or cholesterol. They are the only beans considered to be a complete protein because they contain all eight essential amino acids. Soya is also high in essential fatty acids. The role of soya in preventing and treating chronic disease has become so important that there is an annual four-day international conference devoted just to soya. The conference, hosted in Brussels in September 1996, with nearly eighty speakers from around the world, focused on the role of soya in reducing heart disease and cancer. And papers were presented on soya and hormones, the menopause and osteoporosis.
* Exercise regularly
Take brisk walks and get your heart beating fasting than it usually does. As well as keeping the cardiovascular system in good condition, exercise also seems to help raise HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol) and lower LDL (the ‘bad’ cholesterol).
* Look at your vitamins
A very exciting confirmation of the link between good nutrition and heart disease came from a study published in The Lancet in March 1996. Scientists from Cambridge University and Papworth Hospital found that taking a daily dose of vitamin E reduced the risk of having a heart attack by an astonishing 75 per cent. An eighteen-month trial involved 2000 patients with coronary arteriosclerosis (fatty deposits in the arteries). Half of the patients were given the vitamin E supplement with their regular medication and half took the placebo with their regular medication.
The number of heart attacks in the group which took the vitamin E was a quarter of those taking the dummy pills. Those given the supplement appeared to be at no greater risk of having a heart attack than normal, healthy men and women of the same age with no heart problems.
According to Professor Morris Brown of Cambridge University, quoted in the Journal of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition: ‘This is even more exciting than aspirin. Most people in our study were already taking aspirin. The average benefit from taking aspirin is in the order of 25 to 40 per cent reduction. Vitamin E reduces the risk of heart attack by a massive 75 per cent.’
Professor Brown then goes on to say that he would not suggest that people should stop taking aspirin. Why not? He just suggests that they take the vitamin E as well. He added ‘It would be irresponsible for us to recommend it freely to those without heart disease.’ Is he actually suggesting you wait until you have narrowing of the arteries or a heart attack and then start the vitamin E?
With results like these on a large-scale double-blind controlled trial, doctors should be recommending what to eat and what to take to keep us well. But results like this and others before get stuck in the academic literature without being put to any practical use. Several other previous studies in fact have indicated that vitamin E is important for heart health – low blood levels of this vitamin have been linked to heart attack risk.
So increase your vitamin E intake from foods such as olives, olive oil, avocado and tuna and take it in a supplement form
* Make sure your mineral levels are good
It has been found that magnesium-rich foods seem to protect against coronary disease. A ten-year study of 2000 men showed that those who had heart attacks had significantly less magnesium in their blood than those who did not. Also analysis of three other trials has shown a significant reduction in deaths by treating heart disease patients with magnesium. Magnesium-rich foods are cereals such as wheat, oats and rye.
CARDIO & BLOOD