Feed your heart well to keep disease at bay


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On Friday, the world will commemorate the World Heart Day under the theme ‘Power Your Heart’.

According to information from Norvik Hospital in Kampala, the day aims at raising awareness about diseases of the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular diseases). Such diseases include hypertension and stroke. 

Hypertension

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a long-term medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated.

Speaking at the dissemination of findings of a study about prevalence and risk factors for cardiovascular diseases in Wakiso district recently, Dr James Kayima, a cardiologist, noted that risk factors for developing hypertension include:

Increasing age (over 40 years)

Harmful alcohol consumption

Being overweight

Having fat around the abdomen (abdominal obesity)

Diabetes

Having a family history of hypertension

Smoking

Overconsumption of salt

Leading a sedentary lifestyle

High levels of stress

Inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables

Kayima noted that, if left unmanaged, hypertension can lead to disability and death from heart complications.

High blood pressure is the commonest cause of heart and vessel disease, heart failure, kidney failure and stroke. It also causes erectile dysfunction.

Management and prevention

Speaking at the dissemination of the results from the Wakiso study, Dr Jane Nakibuuka Malagala, a specialist in internal medicine, noted that hypertension can be prevented or managed through:

Limiting alcohol consumption

Quitting smoking

Regularly screening/ checking blood pressure and seeking medical advice

Exercising for 30 minutes every day: This can help one lose weight, which can lower blood pressure

Treating chronic illnesses, such as cancer and alzheimer’s disease

Managing stressful situations

Little salt intake

Healthy diet for the heart

Lilian Nakayiki Nyanzi, a nutritionist at Newlife Medical Centre in Bweyogerere, Wakiso district, notes that in order to maintain good heart health, one should ensure a diet rich in the following nutrients;

Omega-3 fatty acids

These are fats found in fish and fish products, which decrease the levels of dangerous fats in the blood.

Other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and are good for the heart include avocado.

Vitamins A, C, E

These are antioxidants found in fresh fruits such as oranges, tangerines, mangoes and pawpaw. They are also found in fresh green leafy vegetables such as spinach, dodo, sukuma wiki and cabbage.

Antioxidants fight against free radicals in the body. Free radicals occur as a result of oxidative reactions taking place in the body and can be cancerous, if they accumulate in excess, which poses a threat to one’s health.

Similarly, antioxidants prevent clogging of the arterial walls with deposits of fats and other compounds in blood forming plaque, which narrows the blood vessels, consequently affecting the flow of blood leading to an increased blood pressure and eventually heart diseases.

Best sources of Vitamin A are fish, fIsh oils, eggs and liver. Vitamin A is fat soluble that is why it is absorbed from fat-rich foods.

Best sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables like dodo, nakatti, sukumawiki, cabbage, broccoli and lettuce.

Fruits, such as mangoes, passion fruits, oranges, pawpaw’s, pineapples, apples and jackfruit are also good sources.

Best sources of vitamin E, include avocado, nuts/ seed-based foods.

Selenium

This nutrient is required in minute quantities by the body. It works in presence of Vitamin E to eliminate free radicals in the body.

Selenium is most likely to be found in whole grains and animal produce, rather than fresh fruit and vegetables.

Flavonoids

They are found in some functional foods, such as fruits and vegetables like apples and onions.

Flavonoids inhibit the action of platelets (blood cells) that are responsible for blood clotting.

Blood clots can inhibit the flow of blood to various body parts from the heart, or the supply of blood to the heart muscles, which can result into a condition called angina pectoris and eventually a heart attack.

Lycopene

This is a carotenoid found in raw tomatoes that reduces the risk of coronary heart disease.

Beta carotene

These are found in carrots and they prevent the build-up of toxins (free radicals) in the arteries that could clog the arterial walls.

Vitamin B6

This vitamin reduces the levels of homocysteine, a damaging amino acid in the blood. Vitamin B6 is found in nuts, pulses, potatoes and fish.

What to limit

Red fatty meats

These include beef, mutton and pork. These foods are high in saturated fats (bad fats) and cholesterol, which if not utilised by the body as energy, they are deposited in the artery walls, leading to clogged arteries and eventually coronary heart disease.

Highly processed foods

Highly processed foods, include fried foods, such as chips, pastries like pies, oily snacks like sausages, kebabs and all food prepared using fats, lard and margarine instead of vegetable oils. These foods are also rich in saturated fats, which pose a health threat to the cardiovascular system.

Sugary and refined foods

These include ice creams, cakes, puddings and muffins. Sugary foods have been associated with heart diseases because sugar increases the availability of free radicals in the blood, as well as increasing body weight and total body fats.

Refined foods, include polished cereals, pasta, polished rice and polished posho. One should eat whole grains instead of highly refined cereals.

All these foods should be eaten occasionally.

If eaten in excess for a long period of time, they could pose a health threat to one.






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