Heart Disease, Diet Nutrition and Lifestyle
Please note: This program offers general advice only. It is not a substitute for personal medical attention. If you think you may have a heart problem, see your doctor.
Coronary heart disease is the No 1 cause of premature death throughout the developed world. Please take it seriously. At the very least, please make sure you have your blood pressure and cholesterol tested regularly.
See also: Cholesterol-Lowering Diet
Heart Disease Made Simple
We need a constant blood supply
Every second, blood travels around our body through a series of pipes called arteries or veins. If it didn’t, none of our organs (e.g. heart, brain, liver, kidneys, eyes) could survive. Why not? Because blood is the body’s transport system. It carries oxygen and other vital chemicals around the body to all the organs and simultaneously collects waste and other toxins for eventual treatment and disposal. So, if one of our arteries/veins becomes blocked, causing a stoppage in the blood flow, our organs stop working and we collapse.
Heart-attacks and strokes
A heart-attack occurs when we develop a blockage in one of the arteries supplying blood to our heart. A stroke is the result of a blockage in one of the arteries to our brain. In either case, the story is the same. Lack of blood stops the heart or brain from working so it shuts down and we collapse.
How does an arterial-blockage occur?
It occurs as a result of a combination of things.
(1) Over time, the wall of our artery becomes diseased or ‘corroded’.
(2) As our blood passes through this corroded section, it dumps some of the fat which it is carrying, and this fat forms a bulge in the wall of the artery. Result? In the same way that double-parking narrows a road and causes a slow down in the flow of traffic, this fatty bulge narrows the width of the artery and slows down the flow of blood as it passes around it. See Diet Advice For Atherosclerosis
(3) If the blood flow gets too slow, and if tiny bits break off the bulge in the wall – clogging up the blood even more – the blood will form a spontaneous clot, completely blocking the artery.
How to reduce the chances of a heart attack
Generally speaking, our chances of getting a heart attack depend upon two separate factors:
Family history plays an important part, but lifestyle is probably the major culprit. For example, heart disease & stroke accounts for 48 per cent of all Irish deaths, yet only about 0.01 per cent of the population inherits an additional risk of such conditions. In other words, if we wish to reduce the risk of a heart attack, we must improve some of the habits which make up our lifestyle.
The 6 bad habits which we need to change
There are 6 bad habits which together make up the sort of lifestyle that can cause heart disease.
1. We refuse to change
All these habits are important. I’ll deal with each in turn, however I’ll focus primarily on No 6.
1. We refuse to change!
Every week, something or someone reminds us to look after our health – especially our heart! Do we listen? No! We just carry on as normal. We carry on smoking, drinking, eating badly and avoiding exercise. Our eating habits are particularly bad. It’s never been easier to eat healthily, but most of us just carry on eating the same old rubbish. This unwillingness to change, is a fundamental cause of most heart-attacks.
My advice: If after reading this page, you realise that some of your habits need changing: then change them! Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a heart-attack is something that only happens to other people. The cemeteries are full of people who held this opinion.
Is it worth taking heart disease seriously? Answer: YES!
About 1 person in 500 inherits an additional susceptibility to heart-attacks and strokes. If you believe that you fall into this category, or if you have a family history of heart disease, then as well as following the advice on this page, I strongly recommend that you visit your doctor for a check-up and a cholesterol test.
2. We smoke
If you smoke a packet of cigarettes a day, you double your risk of a heart-attack. You are also five times as likely to suffer a stroke. Smoking 40 cigarettes a day makes you five times as likely to suffer from a heart-attack. In Britain, 30,000 people die of heart disease annually as a direct result of smoking. Why? Because cigarette smoke contains over 850 chemical components which cause serious damage to the human body. They damage blood vessels, increase fat-levels, encourage blood-clotting and damage the walls of our arteries. [They also cause lung cancer.]
My advice: Ideally, stop smoking altogether. Smoking is a major health risk. If you won’t stop, then at least reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke. In addition, since smoking is so bad for you, you must pay special attention to the rest of this page – especially the section on diet.
3. We are overweight
Being overweight is usually a sign that you are eating too many high-fat or high-sugar foods. To put it simply, your diet contains too many calories. Result? The excess calories are stored as fat throughout your body.
However, being 10-15 pounds overweight is not a problem: it’s only when you become 28 pounds (2 stone or more) overweight that you increase your risk of heart disease & strokes.
The Body Mass Index
For more details, click Check your weight with the Body Mass Index
My advice: Using the BMI, check how overweight you are for your height. If you are less than 28 pounds (two stone) overweight, you should start to watch your calories. If you are more than 28 pounds overweight, I suggest that you get hold of a sensible diet and lose weight. (Note: Anne Collins Diet is both sensible and kind to hearts.)
4. We don’t exercise enough
Unlike us, our great-grand-parents had no car, washing-machine, dryer or cooker. Result? When they went to church, they walked. When they washed, they did it by hand. When they cooked, they first went for water. In other words, exercise was part of their everyday life. Today, however, we take very little exercise, which is very bad news for our heart. Why? Because if our heart doesn’t get enough exercise, it gets weak and can’t pump blood as efficiently as it should.
However, if we exercise regularly: our heart gets stronger, the level of fat in our bloodstream drops and our arteries stay clear of those dangerous deposits that cause blockages. The moral? Get lots of exercise, preferably in the fresh air!
My advice: The easiest way to start exercising is to start walking. But please take things gradually and go at your own speed! For example, start with a light 15-20 min walk every day. After a while, increase your speed and swing your arms as you move. As your fitness improves, increase the length of your walk to about 40 minutes and include one steep-ish hill.
If you are too overweight to go walking, then try a few light indoor exercises. Even sitting in a chair clenching and unclenching your fist for 10 minutes a day is better than nothing.
5. We let stress get on top of us
Stress is bad for our heart in several ways
However, stress itself is not the problem: it’s how we deal with it that counts.
My advice: Get things into perspective! Remember: the only thing that really counts is good health. Everything else is a luxury which isn’t really worth worrying about.
Take more control over your life
Set aside 15-20 minutes every day, to relax
6. We don’t eat properly
If you want to look after your heart, here are five basic suggestions for improving your diet:
EAT LOTS OF FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
I recommend that you eat 3-4 daily helpings of vegetables (inc. potatoes) and 3-4 daily portions of fruit. If you smoke, I advise you to eat more: i.e. at least 5 helpings of vegetables plus at least 5 portions of fruit. (Ideally, quit smoking!)
4 ways to eat more fruit
4 ways to eat more vegetables
EAT LESS FAT – ESPECIALLY SATURATED FAT
We cannot survive without fat in our diet. However, most of us make 2 big mistakes. We eat too much fat in total and too much saturated fat in particular. As a result, we greatly increase our chances of developing heart-attacks and strokes.
Use less fat when cooking
Switch to low-fat alternatives
Avoid high-fat foods
Oily fish – the exception to the rule!
Don’t add fat to your food
CUT DOWN ON SUGAR
A high sugar diet raises blood pressure, reduces resistance to stress (itself bad for the heart) and raises the risk of diabetes and obesity. It also makes our blood more liable to clot, thus increasing the risk of heart-attacks and strokes.
My advice: Avoid: regular soft drinks, cookies, cakes, candy, sweets and toffees.
The Effects of Alcohol on Your Heart
FILL UP WITH LOTS OF SOLID NUTRITIOUS FOOD
By solid foods, I mean: bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, beans, cereals, oats and pulses. All these wonderful foods are extremely good for you, so eat lots! For example:
EAT MORE SUPER-FOODS!
There are several super-foods which appear to offer extra protection against the dangers of heart disease. Some have already been mentioned but they are worth repeating.
Oily fish , oat-bran, garlic, onions, raw carrots, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, active yogurt, tea.
I strongly recommend that you make these super-foods part of your regular diet.
Putting it all into practice
For a healthy heart, follow these simple steps.