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Nutrition and prevention of coronary heart disease


Heart disease

Heart disease

To begin this discussion on nutrition and heart disease, a brief the record of the physiology of the heart will throw more light into this subject. The heart starts beating at about the eighth week of pregnancy and continues to do so throughout an individual’s life. The heart cannot afford to fail in its function of pumping blood to the whole body. In performing this function, the heart also ensures that adequate blood is pumped to the heart itself. The arteries that pump blood to the heart are known as the coronary arteries.

Blockage or narrowing of these vessels can lead to what is known as coronary heart disease. As this narrowing increase, a left sided chest pain known, as angina will set in due to a reduction in blood, oxygen and nutrients supply to the heart. Total blockage of a coronary artery that supplies a section of the heart causes death of that portion of the heart-giving rise to what is known as heart attack.

The commonest cause of narrowing of the coronary artery is atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the build up of cholesterol and fatty deposits known as plaques on the inner wall of the artery. There are certain risk factors associated with coronary heart disease and they include, dehydration, family history, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, stress, lack of exercise, hyperlipidemia and obesity. More than a risk factor, long standing dehydration can be considered a cause of atherosclerosis.


In a state of dehydration, the brain to sends signals to the liver to produce more cholesterol, which come into use when the body goes into a rationing mode as a result of dehydration. In this state, water is redistributed from the muscles, bones and joints to the brain, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys – the five vital organs in the body.

Cholesterol will have to be deposited between the cells in the walls of the capillaries to take over the usual adhesive function of water between the cells. Cholesterol, being impermeable to water, drastically reduces the passage of water out of the blood in the capillaries into the muscles. These cholesterol deposits initially found between the cells will eventually begin to grow into the lumen of the capillaries where they join together to form plaques. At this time also, the blood level of cholesterol is very high and increasing ones daily consumption of water and sustaining it there can easily manage such hypercholesterolemia.

What you eat plays a very significant role in ensuring the good health of the heart. To begin with, whatever you eat must not be excessive. Do not over eat. You will have to eat more of some food, reduce some and avoid others entirely to keep your heart healthy throughout your life. To keep your heart healthy, you have to eat more of the low calorie, nutrient rich foods like fresh, raw vegetables and fruits. They are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber and substances that directly prevent heart disease.


Whole grains like whole wheat and oats, brown rice, barley and ground flaxseed are also high in fiber, minerals and vitamins. Also recommended to keep the heart healthy are low fat proteins found in foods like skimmed milk, low fat yoghurt, egg white, cold-water fish such as tuna and salmon. Others are skinless poultry, legumes (kidney and black beans, lentils), soybeans, tofu and lean meat. To ensure that the heart is healthy, high calorie, high sodium foods like fast foods, processed and refined foods should be avoided.

These will include, white flour products such as white bread and cakes, pastries, pasta, white sugar, table salt and white rice. Others are unhealthy fats like saturated, hydrogenated and trans fats such as is in margarine, butter, shortening etc.

Finally as part of the principles of preventing coronary heart disease you need to take different varieties of the food that you are allowed to take. It ensures that your heart gets all that it needs to stay healthy from different sources and it makes it less boring for you. These are things that you have not been used to eating.

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