In the USA alone, heart disease is the leading cause of death in both males and females, especially in the past few decades. Things are pretty similar all around the world, making heart health more important now than ever. Heart disease occurs as a result of a combination of things – our unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, the amount of sugar and fat we stuff ourselves with, etc. All of this can go away by simply starting with a healthy diet, which unfortunately people associate with bland foods.
However, it’s not like that at all. There are many super heart-healthy foods that are equally delicious as your favorite foods. But, before we delve into details, let’s talk about the heart a bit.
The Importance of Heart Health
The heart, as you most likely know, is a muscle located in the rib cage which beats 24/7 and delivers blood and oxygen all over the body. The outside of the heart is made of muscles, while the inside has 4 chambers that are hollow. Every chamber has its own role – the right top side receives blood from our veins, while the bottom right chamber pushes it out of the heart. On the left side, oxygenated blood comes through the bottom left chamber and is instantly being pushed back into circulation through the top left chamber. It’s a complex system that works non-stop, and the most interesting part is that the heart isn’t fed by nutrients like all other muscles.
A system of coronary arteries from the aorta “powers” the heart and keeps it alive. When these arteries get clogged up by plaque, the heart is protected by inactive collateral vessels. This can lead to heart disease, which as we already mentioned is deadly serious. Heart disease and cardiovascular disease are not the same – the latter is a condition caused by narrow arteries which don’t allow proper blood flow. Cardiovascular disease can lead to stroke and heart attack which manifests early by chest pain.
Heart disease is actually an umbrella term for heart defects, rhythm problems, and coronary artery disease. It manifests through a variety of symptoms which include angina, neck, shoulder, and jaw pain, shortness of breath, and pain and numbness in the legs and arms. Of course, each condition has a specific set of symptoms.
Heart Disease Risk Factors
Smoking, high cholesterol levels, obesity, and an unhealthy diet are the four main risk factors for heart disease. Diabetes, physical inactivity, stress, and a damaged immune system are secondary triggers which need to be put under control in order to reduce the risk of heart disease.
With the diet playing a major part in the health of our heart, it makes sense that a healthy diet should lower the risk of heart disease.
Here are the top 10 heart-healthy foods that should be a part of your diet:
Filled with antioxidants, fiber, anthocyanins, and flavonoids, blueberries are the perfect heart-healthy food that you should eat every day. According to studies, 3+ servings of blueberries per day can reduce the risk of heart disease by more than 30%, while also lowering the blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and the amount of plaque in the arteries.
Avocados are a real natural powerhouse. Containing almost any vitamin and important nutrient you can think of, avocados can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. If the taste is too bland for you, try adding them to desserts or make a tasty guacamole.
Real, 70% cocoa-rich dark chocolate is rich in flavanols, powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that can reduce inflammation and the risk of heart disease. Even science has proven that eating dark chocolate can lower the risk of stroke and heart attack by a lot and control the blood sugar levels as well. That doesn’t mean you’re allowed to eat all the dark chocolate you can find. A bar or two per day is just enough to keep your heart healthy.
Almonds are tasty and super heart-friendly. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, vitamin E, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, antioxidants, and fiber, almonds are the perfect snack if you’re suffering from some kind of heart disease. Just eat a handful of them every day and your heart will thank you later.
The tropical fruit is a perfect source of heart-healthy nutrients that will lower your blood pressure and instantly improve your heart health. If you don’t want to eat it on its own, papaya works great in fruit mixes and salads.
Red wine is one of the very few drinks that contains resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant that shields the heart from damage. Drinking a glass of wine (or two on weekends) is great for your heart – anything more than that can actually have an opposite effect.
Some call salmon the king of fish and they’re not wrong. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other heart-healthy compounds, eating salmon will reduce the risk of conditions such as atherosclerosis and arrhythmia. Eat it twice a week and your heart will work much better.
We usually take tomatoes for granted, but they’re amazing food for your heart. Rich in lycopene, folate, potassium, and beta-carotene, tomatoes will protect your heart and reduce your cholesterol levels, effectively preventing heart disease.
Last but not least, olive oil is an absolute champion of heart-healthy foods. Studies have found that not only does it lower the risk of heart disease, it also improves our longevity, making olive oil a perfect food for our heart and overall health.
Aside from the aforementioned foods, experts suggest pomegranates, raisins, red grapes, green tea, and flaxseeds as other great heart-healthy foods you should include in your diet. Start eating more of these foods now and you will feel much better pretty soon.