Heart disease is a leading cause of death across the globe. According to the World Health Organization, ischemic heart disease is responsible for 16 percent of the world’s total deaths. The WHO also points out that, between 2000 and 2019, deaths due to ischemic heart disease rose by more than two million.
Though not all deaths due to heart disease are preventable, many are, and researchers have discovered various ways individuals can reduce their risk for heart disease. One way individuals can protect their heart health is to eat a healthy diet. The link between diet and heart health is significant. Recognition of that link can help people concerned about heart disease develop a dietary plan that reduces their risk for this all-too-common killer.
A healthy diet, weight and heart health
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that a healthy diet is balanced and includes a variety of nutritious foods. In fact, one easy way to determine if a plate is healthy is to see how colorful it is. The CDC notes that “eating the rainbow” means a plate is filled with an array of colors, which typically means an individual is eating healthy foods. Such a plate may include dark, leafy greens; bright red tomatoes; colorful fruits like oranges; and even fresh herbs. Such foods tend to be loaded with vitamins, fibers and minerals and low in added sugars, sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol. That makes it easier for individuals to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, which in turn reduces their risk for heart disease. A recent study from researchers at Johns Hopkins found that obesity itself can lead to heart failure, even in the absence of markers for heart disease like high blood pressure, diabetes and elevated cholesterol that have long been used to determine an individual’s risk for heart disease. So by using a nutritious diet to maintain or achieve a healthy weight, individuals are thus lowering their risk for heart disease, even if they do not presently have any of the established markers indicating that risk has been elevated.
A healthy diet, cholesterol and heart health
Of course, many people already have learned that they are at an elevated risk for heart disease due to certain lifestyle choices, including poor diet. A poor diet can cause a host of health problems, including elevating cholesterol levels. According to the Heart & Vascular Center at Valley View Hospital in western Colorado, a diet high in saturated fat can lead to heart disease because it can increase cholesterol levels. The Mayo Clinic notes that, when a person has high cholesterol, fatty deposits can develop in the blood vessels. Those deposits eventually grow, making it difficult for sufficient blood to flow through the arteries. The deposits also can break and form clots that can cause heart attack or stroke. Though Harvard Health notes that some people are genetically predisposed to high blood cholesterol, a diet that limits intake of saturated fat can help most people maintain healthy cholesterol levels, thus reducing their risk for heart disease. Foods high in saturated fat include pork, beef, lamb, cream, butter, and cheese.