Nutrients that help cardiovascular disease
In addition to limiting your intake of saturated fats, increasing omega-3 fats, and including more fibre in your diet, there are specific changes that you can make in order to help prevent and treat cardiovascular disease.
Choose soya products
Studies have shown that eating 25g (1oz) soya protein every day will lower levels of LDL cholesterol by about five per cent. In the US the Food and Drug Administration has approved a health claim for soya foods that encourages eating soya protein daily as part of a diet low in saturated fat, to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Reduce homocysteine levels
An emerging risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease is a high level of an amino acid called homocysteine in the blood. This can be caused by a genetic defect in the enzymes that break down homocysteine, as well as by a diet low in folate. Vitamins B6 and B12 are also needed to break it down in the body, so most doctors prescribe a supplement that contains these three vitamins for anyone with elevated homocysteine levels. If you are at risk of cardiovascular disease, ask your doctor about taking a multivitamin supplement.
Eat plant oils
Plant sterols and stanols, derived from natural plant oils, have been shown to lower LDL-cholesterol levels in the blood by up to 14 per cent. As a result sterols and stanols have been incorporated into some brands of spreads.
For those with elevated LDL levels the American National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that 2g of plant stanol/sterol (esters) be included daily in a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat. In the gastrointestinal tract sterols/ stanols compete with cholesterol for absorption, so less dietary and biliary cholesterol is absorbed by the body.
Since spreads with added sterol/stanol are the main source of these compounds, it is important to substitute these for other added fats, such as butter, margarine, oil, or cream cheese, so that your total calories will not be increased by adding these to your diet.
What about alcohol?
The antioxidant properties of red wine may protect your heart by increasing HDL-cholesterol levels and reducing LDL cholesterol from being oxidized and deposited in arteries. However, if you regularly have more than three to four units a day (for men) or two to three units a day (for women), you may increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, elevated triglyceride levels, enlarged heart, and stroke. The best approach is to drink alcohol in moderation.
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- Cardiovascular disease and nutrition
- Case study: busy accountant with metabolic syndrome
- Dietary advice for heart failure
- Dietary advice for high blood pressure
- Nutritional advice for cardiovascular disease
- Omega-3 and fibre - cardiovascular allies
- Reducing total cholesterol, LDL, and triglyceride levels
- Therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) diet
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