I still remember my father’s breakfast ……it was always the same…….bacon, eggs, toast and black coffee. I never thought anything about it until I began to study nutrition later in life. My father lost his life to a heart attack ~ actually, he had his first attack at 42. His doctor told him to change his diet, stop smoking, stop drinking alcohol, exercise, lose weight, stop being stressed……none of these things my father could do; as a result, he passed away from a massive heart attack when he was only 52 years old. Now that my own son is almost that age, I find it unbelievable that he died so young. I feel like my son has his whole future ahead of him, lots of adventures with his children, potential grandchildren, career, etc. My father had the same future except he died.
So I always gravitate to what creates a healthy heart. I do believe the doctor was exactly right. All of the things he told my Dad might have given him a few more years. In looking at the list of what was recommended, I have to say diet stands out. If my father had it to do over again, I wish he would have taken saturated fat, trans fat and high sodium foods out of his daily meals.
I do believe that my father’s high sodium diet added to his high blood pressure. The higher the blood pressure levels, the higher the risk of cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease. My father also loved his bacon and chose to have beef at every meal, including lunch. Our family did have vegetables; however, my mother often used the canned varieties, which have a lot of sodium. I remember despising vegetables as a child, but love them now. They were always overcooked when I was a child.
My father did like fish which is one of the healthier choices for the heart. Omega 3′s are important for our heart and you can find EPA and DHA in fatty fish (such as cod, halibut, mackerel, and salmon) and enriched eggs. Higher intakes have been found to result in a decreased rate of cardiac death and heart attacks and may also reduce triglyceride levels. Recent research looking at long-term diets rich in omega 3s and published in the journal Atherosclerosis found that the greater the intake of Omega 3s, the lower the risk of total cardiovascular disease mortality. I personally take a ultra-pure EPA supplement each day as well to make sure to include this in my diet.
According to the AHA, “vegetables and fruits are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber — and they’re low in calories. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight and blood pressure” — two of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Red apples fall into this category, high in fiber and high in antioxidants ….a great snack alternative to cookies, chips, etc. I like to take a cored red apple and fill with some chopped walnuts or almonds, sometimes a little dried cranberries and top it with a bit of honey and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees…delicious!
And what about that chocolate? A recent study conducted in Stockholm, Sweden, has found that chocolate eaters significantly cut their risk of dying from heart disease. Following a heart attack, patients were followed over an eight-year period. When compared with non-chocolate eaters, those who ate chocolate once a week reduced their risk for cardiac death by 44 percent. Those who indulged twice a week or more reduced their risk by 66 percent. Sounds good to me!
In looking over the list of foods recommended for the heart, vegetables and fruit AND chocolate certainly sound like great choices. And I think if we make our choices from the freshest food possible ~ trying to stay away from the processed (full of sodium) type of foods, we, of course, will be better off. Because heart disease is in our family, I do get concerned about whether I, too, will succumb to this; however, everything I am reading tells me that heart disease is preventable if we change our lifestyles and do the healthy diet, less stress, exercise, etc. What about you? Is heart disease in your family and are you concerned?