What you eat has a large impact on your heart health, so what is the best diet to prevent cardiovascular disease? Watch my interview with Macquarie University’s Dr Jason Kaplan on YouTube, and read the summary below.
The best diet to prevent cardiovascular disease
The best diet to prevent cardiovascular disease is considered to be the Mediterranean-style diet. This kind of diet can be fairly varied, but it has a number of key principles:
- A low consumption of red meat, often no more than once or twice a week
- A high consumption of unprocessed foods
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Lots of fish
- Plenty of olive oil
A study demonstrating a reduction in cardiovascular events was one in which participants consumed one litre of olive oil in a week, which is quite a large amount, by incorporating it into their daily food intake.
Another diet to prevent cardiovascular disease is the Ornish-style diet plan. This is advocated by Dean Ornish – one of the world’s top preventive cardiologists. He talks about a more plant-based diet, which can reverse heart disease.
A Canadian researcher, David Jenkins, has also developed the Portfolio-style diet. This diet has the same effect on reducing cholesterol as does the top selling statin drugs. It is based mostly on the Mediterranean-style diet, but instead of simply eliminating red meat and saturated fat, it is substituted with soy protein and plenty of fiber (which lowers cholesterol).
We can get fiber in the form of fruits and vegetables; we can also get it from things such as flax seed, psyllium and oats. The fiber acts like a Hoover in our intestines to soak up the cholesterol and prevent our bodies from absorbing it.
What is the best exercise to prevent heart disease?
Exercise also plays an important role in reducing the risk of heart disease.
The most important thing is to simply get moving. We need to get moving at least 3-4 times a week and to increase our heart rate.
It doesn’t matter what exercise we do, as long as we’re actually being active.
Many doctors now recommend using some sort of wearable technology, such as a Fitbit, to calculate the number of daily steps – the goal being to take at least 10,000 steps a day. Then if you haven’t done at least your 10,000 steps by the end of the day, you should go for a walk. The other thing to note is that cardiovascular exercise means you need to get your heart beating fast.
Interestingly, though, you’d think that extreme endurance sports would promote extreme health. But this might not be the case. Such athletes might be fine in the short term, but in the longer term extreme exercise may promote inflammation and atherosclerosis.
So it’s fine to do one or two marathons, but doctors don’t recommend doing 20 or 30 or 40, because of the pro-inflammatory impact which could actually cause heart problems down the track.