Even though mortality rates have decreased by 50% since the 1970s, cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries that can lead to a heart attack or stroke, is still the number one killer in the Western world.
While it’s now well established that eating a healthy diet, losing weight, exercising, and quitting smoking can all help reduce the risks associated with CVD, ongoing research is continually shedding light on it. Here are just a few of the latest discoveries:
Big belly: Even if your overall body weight is normal, carrying excess fat in your belly raises your risk for developing heart disease. This kind of fat is called visceral adipose tissue (VAT), which surrounds your organs and releases inflammatory substances that harm blood vessels. The good news is 150 minutes per week (about 21 minutes a day) of moderate activity, like brisk walking, swimming or jogging, can shrink VAT.
Eat your veggies: You’ve heard it since you were a kid and it’s true. Eating just one cup of leafy greens a day appear to lower your risk of heart disease. Recent research indicates that people who eat the most nitrate-rich vegetables – like spinach and lettuce – have a 12% to 26% lower risk of CVD. It’s believed that the nitrates found in food covert into nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels.
Potato salad over fries: Potatoes are high in regular starch, which are broken down quickly into sugar, wreaking havoc on your body’s ability to properly make insulin. However, some of the starch in potatoes left in the fridge for a couple of days, in the form of potato salad, transforms into so-called resistant starch and encourages growth of gut bacteria that makes your body more sensitive to insulin. Adding vinegar or lemon juice to your salad can also slow the conversion of starch into sugar.
Sleep apnea: If you’ve woken up in the middle of the night feeling like you were snoring, choking or unable to breathe, or if you wake up in the morning with a headache, obstructive sleep apnea could be to blame. Apnea can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke and may also be connected to depression. If you think you may have sleep apnea, speak to your doctor about treatments.
Have you been diagnosed with CVD? Have you taken steps to address it? We’d love to hear your strategies. Please share your experiences with the Shop Talk blog community.
Did you know: Heart disease in pairs
Recent research out of China suggests people whose spouse has heart disease are more than twice as likely to also have heart disease, compared to those whose spouses don’t have it. CVD appears to be at least partly environmental, so this research isn’t surprising, but it indicates that it’s something to watch out for, especially if you or your partner has been diagnosed. (Source)