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World Heart Day 2020: Nutrition to prevent heart disease

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World Heart Day 2020 is being celebrated on the penultimate day of National Nutrition Month. What could be more fortuitous? #PoshanMaah stands for a healthy body and strong heart. Gauging the importance of nutrition for the heart is like asking if a fish needs water. The heart’s resistance to cardiovascular disease (CVD), high blood pressure, heart attack and failure is protected by a nutritious diet.
CVD is the number one killer in the world today, not COVID-19. It claims 17.9 million lives every year. A heart-healthy diet lowers bad cholesterol (known as LDL) and limits inflammation to the arteries, thus increasing protection from both, CVD and COVID-19.

What is World Heart Day?

Global thought leaders established World Heart Day in May 2012 with the goal to bring a drop of 25% in deaths from NCDs (non-communicable diseases) by the year 2025. heart diseases fall under the umbrella of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which accounts for nearly half of NCD deaths.
The World Heart Federation is the international body mobilising activities for this special day. The federation brings people from all the countries and ethnic backgrounds together in the fight against the burden of the disease.

World Heart Day 2020

What’s significant about World Heart Day 2020 is that it makes more concrete the individual and collective responsibility we have in putting up a good fight against CVD. Simply living a heart-healthy life can decrease death from heart disease and stroke by 80%. This means eating a nutrient-dense heart-healthy diet, avoiding fast food and smoking, doing regular physical activity. The theme for World Heart Day 2020 is #UseHeart – in every way possible, for beating CVD, caring for loved ones and in gratitude to Corona warriors.

Nutrition to prevent heart disease

A heart-healthy lifestyle begins with a diet that comprises these nutrients in wholesome amounts.

1. Fibre

The number one protector from heart disease is fibre. It will help you live longer since it helps reduce bad cholesterol. There are two types of fibre: solube and insoluble. Soluble fibre is found in oats, beans, apples, oranges, lemon and carrots. Insoluble fibre is also called “roughage” and is found in whole wheat, nuts, beans and veggies such as cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

2. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids like eicopentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) prevent blood clotting, lower LDL and are good for the heart’s rhythm. Your body does not produce Omega-3 naturally so you need to get it from your diet. Eat plenty of tuna and mackerel. Vegetarian sources are vegetable oils, walnuts, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables.

3. MUFA

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids or MUFA provide the raw material for optimum cell function. They lower LDL cholesterol and bring up levels of HDL cholesterol. Replace trans fat sources with MUFA. Consume olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, safflower oil and sesame oil, and nuts like almonds, peanuts, walnuts and avocados for your fix of MUFA.

4. Plant sterols and plant stenols

These nutrients have a chemical structure similar to cholesterol, so when they enter the body, they compete with bad cholesterol and reduce its proportion in your system. Consuming 2-3 gm of plant sterol/stanol esters every day will reduce LDL cholesterol by 6%-15%. Eat more wheat germ, wheat bran, peanuts, olive oil, sesame oil, almonds and Brussels sprouts.

5. Magnesium

For those asking about the importance of micronutrients, let’s take the example of magnesium. This single micronutrient is part of 300 biochemical reactions in your body including maintaining blood pressure and the heart’s rhythm. Magnesium is naturally found in black beans, soya bean, tofu, almonds, pumpkin seeds and spinach.

6. Folic acid

Vitamin B9 is known as folate or folic acid. Research published in the scientific journal Clinical Nutrition says that daily folic acid intake lowers the risk of stroke by 12% as well as preventing the thickening of the walls of the arteries. To get your share of folic acid, include more spinach, pudina, chana (Bengal gram, green and black gram) and soya bean in your daily diet.
It’s not enough to eat well on World Heart Day 2020 alone, of course. MUFA, fibre, folic acid, Omega-3 and family of dietary nutrients should be part of your daily meal plan. Only then can you say, you’re eating Dil Se!
This article is part of a series on National Nutrition Month 2020