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Don’t choke your heart

Don’t choke your heart


Angina is a serious condition that requires careful monitoring. In mild to moderate cases, prescription drugs may be necessary. Along with this nutritional therapy is recommended as it helps to improve the condition.

Angina Pectoris or angina is caused by an insufficient supply of oxygen to the heart muscle which produces a pressure like pain in the chest. While physical exertion and stress increase the heart’s need for oxygen, any kind of emotional tension can also trigger angina. Cold weather and eating very large greasy meals can also trigger the angina pain. Angina usually occurs because the vessels that carry blood to the heart become narrowed and blocked due to atherosclerosis. The risk of atherosclerosis gets accelerated with age, smoking, high levels of blood cholesterol and obesity.

The treatment involves drugs and nutritional intervention that affect the supply of blood to the heart muscle ( coronary vasodilators) or the heart’s demand for oxygen by increasing the size of the vascular opening, thus improving the blood flow and allowing more oxygen and nutrients to reach the heart muscle.

Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Heart

As long as your body is well nourished and you have sufficient supplies of antioxidants available as in fruits and vegetables you need not worry about your body’s ability to handle cholesterol. However, if you are eating a lot of processed and refined foods, whole milk and red meat and your blood tests show a bad HDL to total cholesterol ratio and very high cholesterol readings, then you must get down to some serious thinking about your dietary habits. The degree to which your arteries get damaged depends on:

  • The amount of free radicals in the body. (All these above-mentioned foods promote cell-damaging free radical activity.)
  • The amount of antioxidants that you consume as they prevent free radical activity and in turn cell damage.
  • The type of oil you use for cooking. (Refined vegetable oils containing PUFA are unstable as they have a low smoking point.)
  • The amount of soluble fibre in your diet.

 What should you eat

  • Include foods that can save arteries and prevent heart diseases such as fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes (sprouted), onions, garlic, olive oil, and particularly foods which are high in Vitamin C, E and Beta Carotene.
  • Eat a diet that is well balanced and contains plenty of fibre. Eating more soluble fibre helps reduce cholesterol. Soluble fibre is found in oat bran, whole dals, whole grains, all vegetables and fruits.
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Emphasize foods that are rich in the antioxidant substances (beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, and selenium) that fight free radicals and aid in reducing oxidative stress. Enjoy fruits, tomatoes, carrots, vegetable juices, wheatgrass juice, dark leafy greens, alfalfa sprouts, and whole-grains. The wider the range of colours on your plate, the better the array of nutrients provided. Studies have shown that those who ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day had a 39-per cent lower risk of stroke and angina than those who did not.
  • Take in no more than 20 per cent of daily calories from fat per day. The type of fat you consume is also very important. Monounsaturated fats, found in olive and canola oil, cause levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL, often known as the “bad cholesterol”) to decline without affecting levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL, often known as the “good cholesterol”). Saturated fats, (a type of fat found in animal products such as meat and milk products, and trans- fatty acids found in margarine, processed foods, bakery items, and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, have the opposite effect and hence should be strictly avoided.
  • Include raw nuts (almonds and walnuts), olive oil, and fatty fish such as pink salmon, trout, tuna, Atlantic herring, and mackerel in your diet. These foods contain essential fatty acids that are important for cardiovascular health.
  • Include garlic and onions in your diet. They contain compounds that help to reduce serum cholesterol levels.
  • If you are overweight, adopt a healthy weight-reduction diet plan and stick to it. Obesity places a strain on the cardiovascular system.
  • Avoid stimulants such as coffee and black tea that contain caffeine. Coffee increases stress hormones in the body, putting coffee drinkers at greater risk of heart disease. Also avoid tobacco, alcohol, chocolate, sugar, butter, red meat, fats (particularly animal fats and hydrogenated oils), fried foods, processed and refined foods, soft drinks, spicy foods, and white flour products, such as white bread.
  • Drink at least eight to ten glasses of water every day to improve your metabolism and digestive functions.
  • Flaxseed oil is the richest source of alpha-linolenic acid which gets converted to Omega-3 fats. Flaxseed oil is unsaturated and therefore very unstable and get oxidised easily. Therefore it should not be overheated. Preferably it should be refrigerated & used as a salad dressing. You can buy flaxseeds (also called ‘Alsi’ in Hindi) and grind them into a fine meal called flaxmeal.
  • Avocados have the same type of fat in them as almonds and olives. Eat ½ to 1 avocado per day to reduce cholesterol and LDL levels. Avocado also protects the arteries against oxidative damage.
  • Eat some of your foods raw as they contain a whole lot of biologically active components called enzymes, which have artery cleansing property.

(As published in Hindustan Times dated June 03, 2019)

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