Thursday, October 16, 2008

Understanding Fats for Heart Disease

When most patients are diagnosed with heart disease, they set out to eliminate fat in their diet. Many people start counting fat grams and when they do have fat, they opt for their favorite foods with fat: fried foods, sugary baked goods, dairy and red meat. Unfortunately, eliminating fat and counting fat grams is not going to be helpful for the heart. The heart needs fat. Choosing the right types of fats – the type that protect the heart - is the best option.

The Lyon Diet Heart Study proved that those who eat a diet rich Mediterranean-style food such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, grains and olive oil lowered their risk of cardiac events by nearly 70 percent. This diet is low in dairy and red meat, but rich in good heart-healthy fats.

If you have been diagnosed with heart disease, and even if you have not and just want to keep yourself healthy, the best types of fat to choose are unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Olive oil, canola oil, avocados, fish and nuts offer unsaturated, heart-healthy fats that have been proven to decrease triglycerides and blood pressure, while increasing high-density lipoproteins (good cholesterol). Studies have shown that patients who trade a high fat, high carbohydrate diet for one rich in these foods can improve their cardiovascular health in as little as six weeks.

Cold water fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and have numerous health benefits. Omega -3 rich fish has been shown to lower blood pressure, slow plaque buildup in the arteries, and prevent blood clots, all while reducing the risk of sudden death by 50 percent and lowering the risk of heart disease by more than 35 percent.

While knowing which types of fats protect the heart and offer protection against a future heart attack is a good start, it is also important to know which kind of fats to avoid. Partially hydrogenated oils (trans fat) and saturated fats decrease your high-density lipoproteins (good cholesterol), clog arteries and generally weaken your body’s natural defense systems. Trans fat is found in margarine, baked goods, many highly-processed foods and fried foods, while saturated fat is mostly found in dairy and meat. Researchers have found that some 225,000 heart attacks that happen to Americans each year could be prevented by eliminating trans fat from the diet.

All of the research done on fats suggest the same thing: reduce red meat, dairy, baked good, processed foods and fried foods, and opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, cold water fish, avocados, nuts, olive oil and grains. Be heart healthy!

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