Since 2010, what is the leading cause of death in the United States? The answer may surprise you:cardiovascular disease has been the leading cause of death, rather than COVID-19 or cancer. In 2020, nearly 691,000 Americans died as a result of them.
This is a tragic outcome, especially since heart and circulation diseases can be avoided by living a healthy lifestyle and detecting them early. Despite the fact that these activities range from diet to physical activity to preventive checkups, they are all free. So much and so little. Our diet, on the other hand, has a significant impact on our cardiovascular health.
Or could it be the other way around? Despite the fact that these activities cover a wide range of topics, from food to physical activity to preventative checkups, they are all free. What we eat, on the other hand, has a significant impact on the health of our hearts. Everyday choices like dripping-fat fries and groats versus BigMacs and baked salmon determine whether we will suffer from atherosclerosis or heart attacks in a few or many years.
So, what is the best way to limit the heart’s ability to beat healthy and strong? Let’s discuss the primary enemies of our heart.
Salt tops our infamous list because, when used as a spice, it is frequently utilized in excess in the kitchen, which is extremely damaging to human health. Americans are projected to consume roughly 8.5 g of salt per day per person, although the WHO recommended intake is 4-5 g, or a flat teaspoon. You may be mistaken if you believe you don’t have enough salt because you don’t use a salt shaker. The majority of the salt we consume comes from processed foods such as cheese, bread, ready-made sauces, tinned food, salty snacks or bars.
We crave it because it enhances the taste and is addictive, but it is harmful to the heart. Salt increases the risk of high blood pressure, which is one of the leading causes of heart failure and heart attacks. How can it be avoided?
To begin, cooking from scratch is preferable to using ready-made products. In the kitchen, use lower sodium salt, and instead of salt, sprinkle spices on the plate to enhance the flavor: turmeric, basil, or Roman cumin. Our hearts will be grateful for this!
Since we’re already talking about salt, let’s move on to sugar. This natural ingredient, which most of us love, is also consumed in large quantities. Americans hold the world record for consuming the most sugar – the average American consumes around 126.4 grams of sugar per day! Given that the World Health Organization’s (WHO) daily sugar limit is only 11g, this finding may be concerning. This is more than ten times the safe limit!
Why is our country’s sugar consumption so high? Once again, the answer is straightforward: from ready-made processed foods. Chocolates, bars, candies, and other sweets, drinks (including carbonated drinks), and the hidden sugar found in many products (e.g. corn syrup) not only harm our teeth, but also our health, including our hearts. How?
According to a team of scientists from the University of California who published their findings in JAMA Internal Medicine, sugar causes changes in the human body that lead to heart disease. This addictive ingredient raises blood pressure, causes intra-abdominal adiposity, and causes blood vessel problems, all of which lead to cardiovascular and heart problems. As a result, the more sugar we consume, the greater our risk of having a heart attack, for example.
How can we reduce our sugar intake? It’s difficult because the flavor is addictive. Begin by not adding sugar to your coffee and tea, limiting your purchases of sweet snacks, and carefully reading labels – sugar is hidden in many products that we don’t expect to find!
Processed and cured meats
If you like sausage, hotdogs, hamburgers, or bacon, we’ve got bad news for you: they’re also bad for your heart. Unfortunately, as with sugar, Americans are in the spotlight when it comes to eating processed meat, with an astounding result of approximately 101.6 kg of meat consumed per person per year, placing them first. Isn’t it quite a lot? Especially when we consider that consuming approximately 35 kg of meat per year is sufficient to meet nutritional needs. Would you believe that the US consumes nearly three times the amount of meat as the rest of the world?
How did you get such a high score? That comes as no surprise given how popular eating out is among us. Our main indulgences are inexpensive but filling burgers, crispy wings, sauce-covered ribs, massive steaks, and fried bacon.
Meat consumption in the United States may have increased by up to 40% between 1961 and 2020, according to estimates. The only encouraging factor is that 23% of Americans have declared a meat consumption reduction… However, these statistics are wishful thinking, and the facts speak for themselves: high levels of cholesterol and saturated fatty acids in processed meat are a direct route to atherosclerosis and heart attack. Furthermore, processed meat products (such as canned food or bacon) contain a lot of salt and preservatives, as well as smoking, which is bad for your health. So, maybe it’s better to order a healthy salad instead of a burger every now and then?
Excessive alcohol consumption should be avoided, according to the 2019 American Heart Association (AHA) recommendation on cardiovascular disease prevention (CVD). Their daily consumption is also limited to two units for men and one unit for women. What exactly does this mean? Alcohol units are defined as a glass of wine, a small glass of vodka, or 250 ml of beer. However, even this amount should be replaced with non-alcoholic beverages. Why?
Atherosclerosis, supraventricular arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation, dilated cardiomyopathy, and myocardial infarction are all caused by excessive alcohol consumption. The acacia of the heart is disrupted by alcohol, causing blood vessels to rapidly expand or contract. Not surprisingly, the AHA’s recommendation is to set alcohol aside.
There is one notable exception: red wine, which has been shown to be beneficial to the heart. One glass of this drink per day, with dinner five times a week, can help to protect the cardiovascular system. Small servings of wine, according to data in Sohaib Haseeb’s 2017 article Wine and Cardiovascular Health – A Comprehensive Review, help reduce the risk of death from coronary heart disease and heart attack. However, alcohol should not be used as a preventative measure, but rather as an addition to a healthy lifestyle.
Let us begin with the findings of an intriguing study conducted by Australian scientists and published in the European Heart Journal, which shows that heart attacks are more common in areas with more fast food restaurants. Every year, food causes four additional heart attacks per 100,000 people.
What do delicious pizza, hotdogs, and hamburgers have to do with cardiovascular disease? Oh, a great deal. The high salt and saturated fat content, as well as the calories (with low nutritional value) in them, leads to obesity and, as a result, heart problems, among other things.
French fries, for example, deserve their own section. Frequent consumption of fried foods raises bad LDL cholesterol while decreasing good HDL cholesterol, resulting in atherosclerosis. They also contain a lot of trans fats, which, among other things, increase the risk of heart disease.
So, what should you eat to keep your heart in good shape? First and foremost, plants, including the consumption of green leafy vegetables, have a positive impact on this organ. Spinach, lettuce, arugula, and kale are all excellent choices. Spices like turmeric, garlic, and ginger, which lower cholesterol, are recommended for this. Drinking green tea and eating more fish instead of meat, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines, is also recommended.