Food is what fuels our body, and what we put in it matters! The saying ‘you are what you eat’ is quite accurate, actually. The food you eat directly affects your entire body, inside and out – this includes your heart. Food nourishes our bodies and allows it to function properly. Eat good foods, and your body stays healthy. Eat bad foods, and your body and heart function poorly. Eating unhealthy foods consistently affects the body’s metabolic processes and in turn, affect our health and heart health. Think of food like a medicine – it can treat and prevent disease.
What Does Food Do in Our Bodies?
Food has nutrients and these nutrients allow the cells in our bodies to perform their necessary functions. Proper nutrients are also essential for growth, development and maintenance of body functions. When nutrient intake does not regularly meet the nutrient needs dictated by the cell activity, the metabolic processes slow down or even stop. It’s easy to disregard the importance of food to fuel our bodies and allow it to do it’s job on a cellular level.
How is Food and Heart Disease Connected?
According the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, 80 per cent of premature heart disease can be prevented through healthy lifestyle habits, such as eating a healthy diet. A healthy diet can help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke by:
- improving your cholesterol levels;
- reducing your blood pressure;
- helping you manage your body weight;
- controlling your blood sugar.
Risks associated with an unhealthy diet include:
- High blood pressure – Your heart pumps blood to your entire body. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can damage your heart in a number of ways, such as:
- Coronary artery disease – affects the arteries that supply blood to your heart muscle. Arteries narrowed by coronary artery disease don’t allow blood to flow freely through your arteries. When blood can’t flow freely to your heart, you can experience chest pain, a heart attack or irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias).
- Enlarged left heart – forces your heart to work harder than necessary in order to pump blood to the rest of your body. This causes the left ventricle to thicken or stiffen (left ventricular hypertrophy). These changes limit the ventricle’s ability to pump blood to your body. This condition increases your risk of heart attack, heart failure and sudden cardiac death.
- Heart failure – over time, the strain on your heart caused by high blood pressure can cause your heart muscle to weaken and work less efficiently. Eventually, your overwhelmed heart simply begins to wear out and fail. Damage from heart attacks adds to this problem.
- Type-2 diabetes – This type of diabetes usually begins in adulthood but, is now actually occurring in children. Eating unhealthy foods regularly can cause not only obesity but a resistance to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. Insulin resistance causes the blood sugar to become elevated.
- Certain cancers – The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that about 20% of all cancers diagnosed in the US are related to body fatness, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption, and/or poor nutrition, and can be prevented through eating a healthy diet and being physically inactive.
Foods to Avoid
Eating better begins with eliminating or avoiding unhealthy foods. That said, it’s perfectly normal and acceptable to indulge from time-to-time, but if you want to decrease your risk of heart disease, adopting a healthier lifestyle will be to your benefit. Eating foods high in saturated fats and sodium will increase the risk of coronary illness. If you struggle with making healthy food choices, speaking with a dietitian or your family doctor would be a good starting point.
For more healthy food ideas, read our blog 14 Foods to Add to Your Heart Healthy Grocery List