Dietary Choices Strongly Affect Heart Health
by Dr. Hojat Askari, Founder & Medical Director, Thumb Butte Medical Center
We as health care providers have a duty to protect our patients from harmful substances as much as we can, whether they’re external toxins and pollutants or found on the shelves of the grocery store you rely on. When it comes to your heart health the food you eat is perhaps the most important choice you can make for keeping it working efficiently and strongly through a long, enjoyable life.
The list of heart-damaging foods is well established. Yet the American and world food industry’s tendency to push processed, fatty, salty and otherwise unhealthy products makes it harder than it should be to find the best options for our cardiac health. It’s never a bad idea to review the hazards that can be found in our diets.
Sugar — Consuming too much added sugar elevates your risk of heart disease regardless of your age, gender, weight and activity level. About 1 in 10 Americans get 25% or more of their calories from this inflammatory substance, which generally comes in the form of “empty calories” with no redeeming nutrients like fiber, vitamins or minerals. The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than 100 calories of added sugar per day, and men no more than 150 per day.
Sodium — Excess salt leads to fluid retention and buildup in your circulatory system, which forces your heart to work harder and raise your blood pressure, with sea and pink Himalayan salt having the same effect as table salt or the main culprit, sodium in processed and packaged foods including snacks, deli and canned meats and sauces. The FDA recommends all Americans aim to consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, especially those with high blood pressure or heart failure.
Cholesterol — High LDL cholesterol leads to fat buildup and blockages in arteries. It can be elevated by eating red or processed meat, fried foods or baked desserts and pastries. Eating plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and other high-fiber foods and omega-3-rich foods can lower cholesterol.