Whether you focus on numbers on the scale or your BMI (body mass index), everyone knows that it is important to watch what we eat in order to maintain a slim, trim physical appearance. There are, however, other reasons to be discriminating in our food choices that may be far more important than how we look in the mirror or in that new swimsuit. The relationship between food and heart attacks, as well as other forms of heart disease, is becoming more and more apparent.
More than 2,000 years ago, the Greek physician, Hippocrates, known as the “Father of Medicine” is quoted as saying, “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.” Modern medicine took a turn in the opposite direction, relying almost entirely on drugs to try and fix whatever seemed to be going wrong with the body. Many would say that this approach has been successful in certain areas, like significantly reducing diseases like polio, small pox, diphtheria, and rubella. In other cases, this has not been as effective and a good example may be heart disease.
According to the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a heart attack, and approximately 630,000 Americans die every year as a result of heart disease. That equates to 1 out of every 4 deaths. Obviously, rather than offer treatment following a heart attack or other form of heart disease, preventing the damage in the first place is key. This is where diet and food choices are so important. While researchers are still unlocking all of the secrets of how particular foods react with the heart and other parts of the body, there are some basic recommendations that most agree would be very beneficial.
Are there foods that we can point to as being a definite cause of heart attacks? No, of course not. There are foods, however, that are known to increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol and diabetes in many individuals and all of these have been linked to heart disease. Some of the more common foods and cooking methods that are probably wise to avoid include:
Sugar – its many forms, and there are dozens, are found in practically every box, bag and package on our grocery shelves. As a nation, we are addicted to sugar and it is relentless in its contribution to clogged arteries, hypertension, heart failure and other types of cardiovascular disease.
Salt – sodium is also packed into the vast majority of processed foods we eat every day and it is a leading risk factor for the high blood pressure that ends up causing a heart attack.
Red meat – there are few things we love more than a juicy burger or a sizzling steak or chop right off the grill. Not every nutritionist agrees that we should totally give up red meat, but, due to its high amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol, it is recommended that consumption should be limited. In addition, choose lean, grass-fed cuts of beef, pork, and lamb whenever possible.
Poultry – replacing high-fat burgers with chicken seems like the smart choice, unless, of course, you fry that chicken. Heavily battered and deep fried, chicken tenders have become the go-to fast food in the U.S. In contrast, low in calories, fat, and cholesterol, a skinless chicken breast that is grilled, broiled or cooked in a similarly healthy manner is considered such a great choice that Weight Watchers now deems it a “free” food that does not have to subtract from members’ daily allowance of points!
Every day it seems like a new expert comes out with “the” diet to cure all of our ills. It can be confusing to know who to listen to, but it never hurts to use our own common sense. We know that sugary sodas, buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, burgers the size of footballs, doughnuts, chips, grease-laden pizzas and other types of fast food and highly processed foods are not likely to be heart-friendly. Replacing them with more healthy choices as often as possible can only be a smart move.