Despite all of the strides we have made in medicine and research, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. The question is why? Could it be that we are not paying attention to the lifestyles we live? Are we not taking dietary guidelines seriously? Do we not get enough exercise? Is stress going unmanaged and becoming “too common”? It possibly is all of the above.
The top two risk factors for heart disease include inactivity and obesity, which certainly go hand-in-hand. Other risk factors also include smoking, poor diet habits, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. In 2011, heart disease will cost $444 billion to the health care system in the United States. When are we going to stand up and take notice that the #1 killer in our country is due to the lifestyle choices we are making?
Emerging research continues to show how lifestyle can impact not only cardiovascular disease but almost all chronic diseases including Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, hormone imbalances, GI disturbances and autoimmune diseases and other inflammatory conditions. The National Cholesterol Education Program states, “Lifestyle changes are the most cost-effective means to reduce the risks of CVD.”
A Mediterranean style food plan may be beneficial to all of these diseases and has a tremendous amount of research showing the benefits in reducing CVD and reducing risk factors. This food plan is based on whole foods and eliminates the use of artificial and processed foods. It includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts/seeds, plant and animal based proteins and healthy fats. It also focuses on low-glycemic food choices as well as eating smaller, more frequent meals.
Further research is now also suggesting that a full plant-based food plan is greatly beneficial as well. The American Journal of Cardiology reported in 2009 that a plant- based diet leads to lower triglycerides, lower blood sugar, decreased weight, decreased BMI, better glucose and insulin control, as well as reduced risks for a cardiac event. As the author, Michael Pollan states, “Eat food, not too much, mostly from plants.”
For the best prevention, the CDC reports the following guidelines:
Eat a healthy diet: Such as those mentioned above
Exercise regularly: A minimum of moderate intensity for 30-minutes, 5-7 times per week
Maintain a healthy weight: Monitor your BMI and Body Fat percentage as well as the scale.
Limit or avoid alcohol
You should also be aware of the side effects of any prescription or over-the-counter drugs you are taking. For instance, oral contraceptives may increase your risk for a cardiovascular event due to the depletion of many vitamins and minerals such as B6, B12, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc.
Take care of your body…you only have one life with it!