Atherosclerosis is a condition categorized by a build-up of plaque in the arteries, causing them to harden and narrow which eventually decreases the blood flow to the tissues. It develops slowly over a period of time and one of the leading cause of coronary artery disease in the elderly. Improper blood flow causes symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath and if left untreated, can lead to a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest both of which are life-threatening conditions.
Poor dietary habits and an unhealthy lifestyle are risk factors that influence the onset of atherosclerosis, which can be very well modified. Leading a disciplined lifestyle, staying physically active, quitting smoking and proper nutrition are some of the effective ways to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Furthermore, medications are also prescribed to widen arteries and improve blood flow.
A heart-healthy diet regimen encompassing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds and legumes are beneficial in augmenting cardiac health and functions. While it is also essential to limit sodium, saturated and trans fats, refined carbohydrates and alcohol.
Foods To Include
Fresh Fruits And Vegetables
Evidence has strongly shown that increasing intake of plant-based foods can remarkably improve heart function and help avert a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest.
Fruits and vegetables are blessed with a treasure trove of nutrients including dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, contributing to optimal heart health. While being low on calories and high on dietary fibre help you sustain a healthy weight, diminish cholesterol levels and protect the heart.
Choose from a spectrum of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, however, always go for low-sodium canned vegetables and avoid canned fruits laden in heavy sugar syrup.
Recommended serving for normal adults - 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruits and 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables per day.
Adding whole grains as a part of a healthier diet regimen greatly contribute to heart health and mitigate the negative impacts of coronary heart disease. Whole grain cereals are nutrient-dense and an abundant sources of dietary fibre, essential minerals and vitamins that can help regulate cholesterol level and blood pressure and also reduces the risk of heart disease by 30%.
Some of the best choices of whole-grain cereals include brown rice, oatmeal, wheat, millets, barley, bulgur and buckwheat.
A healthy source of protein in the diet supports overall health and well-being. It is important to choose from plant-based proteins and lean meat that are low in fat and sodium. Good sources of lean meat include fish that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, skinless poultry and eggs, which help lower inflammation, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Peas, lentils, soybeans and legumes are some of the healthy sources of plant proteins.
Fat is always considered to be off-limits for people with coronary heart disease, but not all fat is bad. The fact is eating moderate amounts of healthy fats are good for cardiac wellness. Healthy sources of fat include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that can maintain lipid profile and protect against heart attacks and stroke. Some of the good sources of fats are found in olive oil, gingely oil, groundnut oil, canola oil, flaxseed, avocados, nuts and seeds. Furthermore, it is also important to include low-fat or fat-free milk products such as milk, yoghurt, curd and buttermilk.
Foods To Avoid
For an individual with heart disease, it is vital to maintain cholesterol levels, control blood pressure and manage weight. To achieve this, it is necessary to avoid high-fat and high-sodium foods in the meal plans. Some of the foods to avoid include:
Organ meat cuts
Junk foods like cookies, chips, pies, pastries and ice creams
High-sodium foods to avoid include:
Mayonnaise and ketchup
Processed and preserved foods
Simple Tips To Live Healthy With Atherosclerosis
Portion control: Reducing your food portions can help you take fewer calories, fat and sodium and maintain a healthy weight.
Cook with herbs: Choose healthier alternatives like herbs, spices and salt-free seasoning mixes to cut down the intake of extra salt.
Read Food Labels: Get into a practice of reading food labels to avoid consuming too much fat and sodium.
Regular Exercise: Along with eating a healthy diet, regular exercise is a key component of a heart-healthy lifestyle. Physical activity can support your muscles to utilise oxygen and also improve blood circulation by promoting new blood vessel growth.
Staying physically active also lowers blood pressure – a key risk factor for atherosclerosis. Try to get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercises for at least 5 days in a week.Know Your Numbers: Keep a track of blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood sugar, and body weight and waist circumference under normal range to avert the risk of heart disease.