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Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States– don’t worry, heart disease is easily avoided. There are 10 major risk factors associated with heart disease and the good news is you can control several of the 10! I’ll list the 10 risk factors below, and point out the seven factors we can control. Next, I will examine foods to avoid for a healthy heart!
Factors You Cannot Control
1. Age – can’t do anything about your age (unless you unlock the secrets of immortality).
2. Genetics – You can’t change your genetic makeup, but you can ensure a lower risk for heart disease, even if it runs in your family.
3. Gender – Guys, you are at a higher risk than women for heart disease.
Factors You Can Control
4. Smoking – this is a biggie! Smoking is one of the absolute worst habits you can develop due to the destructive nature of all the chemicals in tobacco products. Please don’t start, and if you do…Quit now!
5. Physical Activity Levels – Just be active! Get in your weekly required (in my case needed for stress relief) physical activity.
6. Maintain a Healthy Weight – It goes without saying that you should do your very best to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity quickly leads to several diseases other than cardiovascular diseases.
7. Control Cholesterol Levels – cholesterol is a much needed molecule to add fluidity to our cell membranes. However, too much cholesterol in our bloodstream is very dangerous on many levels.
8. Control Blood Pressure – Have a career? Kids? Then you know how difficult it can be to control your BP, but we must, for many reasons. The most important reason is to protect our heart from too much stress and possible fibrillation.
9. Control Blood Sugar – Obviously too much sugar in your blood can have disastrous effects– diabetes, decreased insulin sensitivity, heart disease, and even death!
10. Eat a Healthy Diet – Don’t eat harmful foods, foods that provide little nutrient density, and processed foods especially! Want to dive in deeper here? Me too! Let’s take a look at the foods that will inevitably ruin the old blood pumper!
Take a look again at the risk factors, several of them are controlled by what you stuff in your face! Rarely consuming foods that are harmful to your heart will significantly lower your risk for heart disease.
Now, I’m not saying that you can never eat any of the foods I’m about to list– though I am warning you not to indulge regularly in these food types as they will surely bring you to your demise! A small amount of unhealthy food will not ruin you for life, especially if you are a generally healthy person exercising regularly.
Without further ado, here are some foods to avoid to keep the ole ticker ticking:
I’m from Alabama, so I know a lot about fried foods. Being raised in the south, I probably ate fried foods most days of the week. Little did I know frying foods creates compounds called trans-fats. Trans-fats are a type of fat known to raise LDL (low-density lipoproteins) cholesterol, which is considered the “Less Desirable Lipid” (A lipid is fat). Trans-fats also lower the amount of HDL (high-density lipoproteins) in the blood. HDL is the “Highly Desirable Fat” and is very important in that it removes cholesterol from the blood and transports it to the liver for removal.
Aside from trans-fats, fried foods contain a ton of saturated fats and are salty, which can also lead to heart disease.
Where to begin…? I have not eaten fast food in 10 years. I’m not bragging, I’m saying this because it changed my life– for the better. Fast food is fried, salty and many times high in sugar. All of these qualities are exactly what you should avoid to maintain proper blood pressure and blood sugar levels! Try your best to stay away from fast food, it does zero good for your body, zero!
I know, I know, what can you eat, right!? Processed meats include bacon, cold cuts, cured meats, etc.. Studies have shown a large increase in heart attack risk among those that eat precessed meats regularly. Researchers are examining what exactly causes this risk increase, many believe it’s due to the salt used to preserve the meat.
In all honesty, I eat bacon and eggs every weekend with my sons, it’s a tradition at my house. However, all other meals on all other days are mostly healthy and create a positive visceral environment for my body. Enjoy the little things!
Oops, margarine was once thought to be better for you than butter, boy were we wrong! Margarine derives from plants, it’s originally an oil that can be made into a semi-solid “butter-like” substance. However, trans-fats are created during the solidification process. To keep this simple for you, try to avoid hydrogenated and/or partially hydrogenated products.
Seriously America, we have a huge problem with salt and sugar, and we should really be more cautious of our intake! Salt can increase your blood pressure in significant amounts. Most processed foods contain salt for preservation, then we cook them and add more salt, it’s an endless cycle of torture for your heart and body.
The recommended intake for sugar is 40g per day or less. Interestingly, when I give my clients homework to count the grams of sugar they eat every day for one week, most of them report to me they are eating 300-400g of sugar per day. Wow! Sugar is becoming the new smoking! Needles to say, too much sugar intake can lead to several diseases other than heart disease, so take note of your daily sugar intake!
Word to the wise, enjoy what you eat, but make smart choices and stay healthy. I hope this discussion has provided valuable insight as to why your should eat healthy foods, and why you should avoid processed, fried, sugary foods!
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