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FAQ (Health)

 Dr. George Jacob
Heart Infocenter


Alternative and Complementary Medicine for Heart

Diet and Nutrition Therapy:

Even modest changes in diet and lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. 

In general, eat foods low in cholesterol, saturated fat and salt. Take vitamins and supplements recommended or eat foods containing the essential vitamins and minerals. Fatty acids in fish contain Omega 3 that was shown to be effective in preventing heart diseases. Similarly, taking moderate quantities of red wine was also found to be beneficial. (Caution: High intake of alcohol is bad and should be avoided.)

Foods that can save arteries and prevent heart disease:

Seafood, Fruits, Vegetables, Nuts, Grains, Legumes, onions, garlic, olive oil, alcohol in moderation, foods high in Vitamin C, E and Beta Carotene.

Foods that can damage arteries and the heart:

Meats and dairy foods high in saturated fat, excessive alcohol

Eat little or no meats, dairy and processed foods, which are high in saturated fat. Eat more organically produced grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and seeds. (See also the section on Commonsense approaches)


Diet Recommendations for a Healthy Heart

If you are overweight, adopt a healthy weight-reduction diet plan and stick to it. Obesity places a strain on the cardiovascular system. 

Make sure that your diet is well balanced and contains plenty of fiber. studies have shown that among the sources of dietary fiber-cereal, vegetables, and fruits- that fiber from breakfast cereals appears to be the most beneficial.

Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Emphasize foods that are rich in the antioxidant substances (beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, and selenium) that fight free radicals. Enjoy fruits, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, alfalfa sprouts, and whole-grain products. Studies have shown that those who ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day had a 39-percent lower risk of stroke than those who did not.

Include grapes, eggplant, and red cabbage in your menu. Experts believe that pigments called anthocyanidins in red wine grapes may explain why moderate consumption of red wine can help lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. (This is called French Paradox.) This substance is known to dilate blood vessels, which helps keep blood flowing freely. Anthocyanidins are found in blue and purple fruits and vegetables. 

Take in no more than 25 to 30 percent of daily calories from fat per day. The type of fat you consume is also very important. Monounsaturated fats, found in olive and canola oil, cause levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL, often known as the "bad cholesterol") to decline without affecting levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL, often known as the "good cholesterol"). Saturated fats, (type of fat found in animal products such as meat and dairy foods, and trans- fatty acids found in margarine, shortening, and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, have the opposite effect. Avoid consumption of saturated fats.

Include raw nuts (except peanuts), olive oil, pink salmon, trout, tuna, Atlantic herring, and mackerel in your diet. These foods contain essential fatty acids that are important for cardiovascular health.

Include garlic and onions in your diet. They contain compounds that help to reduce serum cholesterol levels.

Avoid grilled and barbecued foods. Research has shown that people who favor meat cooked over smoldering charcoal are increasing their risk of cardiomyopathy. Carcinogens that form during the browning process are believed to contribute to inflammation of the arteries and the deterioration of the heart muscle.

Avoid stimulants such as coffee and black tea that contain caffeine. Coffee increases stress hormones in the body, putting coffee drinkers at greater risk of heart disease. Also avoid tobacco, alcohol, chocolate, sugar, butter, red meat, fats (particularly animal fats and hydrogenated oils), fried foods, processed and refined foods, soft drinks, spicy foods, and white flour products, such as white bread.

Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. If possible, drink steam-distilled water only. One study found that men who drank at least five glasses of water every day had a 51-percent lower risk of heart disease than those who did not. For women, the risk of heart disease was 35 percent lower.

Eliminate all sources of sodium from your diet. Salt contains sodium, which increases fluid retention and makes the heart work harder. The American Heart Association advises heart patients to limit their sodium intake from all sources to the equivalent of no more than 1 teaspoon of salt daily. 

If you take an anticoagulant (blood thinner) such as warfarin (Coumadin) or heparin, or even aspirin, limit your intake of foods high in vitamin K. Eating foods containing vitamin K increases the blood's tendency to clot. Foods that are rich in vitamin K include alfalfa, broccoli, cauliflower, egg yolks, liver, spinach, and all dark green vegetables. To enhance the effect of anticoagulants, eat more of the following: wheat germ, vitamin E, soybeans, and sunflower seeds.

If you take aspirin regularly for a heart condition, avoid alcohol and antacids, within an hour of taking the aspirin. The combination of aspirin and alcohol can easily aggravate the stomach. Blood-alcohol levels can become higher if aspirin is taken even an hour before. Using antacids can reduce the amount of aspirin circulating in the body.

See Also: American Heart Association's Dietary Guidelines for Heart Diseases and Stroke

Related Topics: 

Vitamin Therapy for Heart Disease

Food/Diet Therapy for Hypertension

The Healthier Eating Plan

Vitamin/Nutrition Therapy for hypertension

Diet/Nutrition for Heart Attack

Nutrition/Diet for Stroke

Nutrition Infocenter in Holisticonline.com

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