Changing Your Diet to Prevent Heart Disease
The death of Michael Jackson this past month was tragic, a blow to all music lovers. Yet could it be a wake up call for all of us?
Gil Kerlikowske, chief of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, has called Michael Jackson's death a wake-up call to the nation about prescription drug abuse. (http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/music/wire/sns-ap-us-michael-jackson-drug-czar,0,1960710.story)
I would agree that this is true, but I would also suggest it could be a wake up call even if we don't misuse prescription drugs.
Michael Jackson was only 50 years old and now he is gone, his untimely passing underscores our need to take stock of our lives. Importantly, we need to look carefully at what we put into our bodies.
Nowhere is this more critical than in the area of prevention of Heart Disease. I can't tell you how many of my heart patients look at me incredulously when I tell them that they need to dramatically change the way they are eating. Specifically, when I tell them they need to significantly reduce the saturated fat in the form of red meat that they are consuming, their eyes often role up in their heads.
Last year, I had a 55 year old man who had suffered a heart attack and had a serum cholesterol of over 295 mg/d ask me, "What can I do to keep from having another heart attack?" When I'd asked him about his diet and discovered that he was eating red meat at almost every meal, I told him he needed to drastically reduce his intake. He said to me, "What I've got to give up my hamburgers? Couldn't it just be heredity?"
Although, a great many people want to believe that heredity plays the most important role in their getting heart disease. It isn't usually the case. Heredity is less important than most people want to think.
The truth is that over 80% of all Coronary Heart Disease is preventable just by following the proper diet. (http://www.bcbsms.com/index.php?id=155&articleid=529099).
The diet I like to recommend to patients is the Mediterranean Diet. In numerous good research studies the people who followed a Mediterranean Diet have been able to reduce their chances of getting heart disease. In the Lyon Heart Study, over 75% of participants who followed a Mediterranean Diet where able to be free from heart disease.
What are the components of the Mediterranean Diet?
1. A reduction in the intake of saturated fat. Saturated fat comes from animal souces. Red meat in particular contains over 50% saturated fat. White meat generally has lower amounts of saturated fat in the range of 20%. People who want to follow a Mediterranean Diet should eat red meat no more than 2 meals a month. For most Americans this is a dramatic shift in their diet. Talk about a wake up call.
2. Second, you'll want to eat more fish. Fish contains Omega 3 fatty acids which have been shown to help prevent heart disease. They also make the platelets less sticky which is beneficial.
3. Third, you'll want to incorporate olive oil into your diet. Olive oil had been proven reduce the bad cholesterol, and also reduce systemic inflammation, a process that helps create heart blockages. Try not to cook the oil if you can. Cooking will reduce some of the medicinal properties. I generally suggest that patients take in 1-2 tablespoons of uncooked oil a day. This can be placed on a salad, mixed with low fat cottage cheese, or placed in a fruit smoothie.
4. Fourth, migrate to whole grains, fruits, and large amounts of vegetables. Eating whole grains has been shown to reduce the incidence of high cholesterol, help prevent diabetes, and reduce colon cancer. Many fruits such as blue berries and cherries have protective antioxidant properties. Vegetable we all know are good for us. You should also incorporate nuts with every meal. Nuts have anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce the serum cholesterol.
5. Finally, you'll want to adopt a Mediterranean lifestyle. By this I mean you'll want to work on reducing the hectic lifestyle of our western lives and try to be more laidback. Stress is known to cause heart disease.
We've all been saddened by the passing of Michael Jackson. He was truly a great entertainer and a pop music icon.
Hopefully, our memories of this great singer will make us think about the uncertainty of life, and help us wake up to the need to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Dr. Kirk Laman