Manipal Nurse Sunday Column: The Heart Matters

There has been a tremendous change in the food habits of the people over the years. This may be due to long hours of work away from home. In most of the developed countries, a tremendous change in the eating habits and lifestyles of people has brought down the heart ailments by about thirty per cent. While in our country, due to lack of awareness, the incidence of heart attacks have increased by thirty-five per cent. Also the age of getting heart attacks has reduced in urban areas in recent years. Modifying your lifestyle and following a good routine of healthy diet and regular exercise may help to prevent heart disease.exercise_heatlhy_heart

Obesity is one of the predisposing factors and the risk is three times more in people who are more than twenty per cent overweight. The extra fat of the body imposes extra strain on the body which in turn imposes extra strain on the heart to pump more blood for extra surface of fat in the body. So if you are overweight, then reduce and maintain a desirable weight level. Avoid overeating and serving of any food should not be more than four to five oz. Limit foods with calories but no nutritional value, such as concentrated sweets and sugar containing soft drinks. Choose a generous variety from basic food groups, but eat fewer high fat foods. Avoid dairy products except cottage cheese and fat-free milk. Include low-fat but high quality protein foods like egg white, fish, etc. Use lean cuts of meat with visible fat removed, and cook them medium to well-done by methods which drain off fat. Organ meats are high, and shell-fish are moderately high in cholesterol and should be used rarely. Instead of animal fats or saturated vegetable fats, vegetable oils are advised because of their polyunsaturated fatty acid content especially linoleic acid. Avoid the use of salt, as well as baking soda, mono-sodium glutamate (Ajinomoto), and baking powder in food preparations.

It is better to take steamed, boiled, roasted or baked foods instead of fried foods. Persons who suffer from acute heart disease should also have a certain regulated diet. In general, the diet of these heart affected persons, should contain three small meals of concentrated foods per day, taken at regular intervals. To keep the stomach as empty and the diaphragm as low as possible, avoid stimulants such as tea, coffee and alcohol. Avoid also all foods which ferment easily with production gas, since a distended stomach lifts the diaphragm even more than one filled with solids or liquids. Hence, the diet should exclude starches, glucose, concentrated sweets, foods containing much sulphur, such as peas, beans, potatoes and cabbage.

The importance of avoiding overeating and increase in weight, both of which throw an extra burden on the heart should be explained to the heart patient. Foods which are known to be difficult to digest also should be avoided. Some persons who have trouble in breathing due to heart problems should be instructed to take his solid food in small mouthfuls and to chew it thoroughly. The foods should be timed properly so that the person gets proper digestive and visceral habits. It is found that three to four servings of hundred grams of fish per week works protectively against coronary heart disease. The fish used should be fatty like tuna, mackerel and salmon. In vegetarian foods, raw garlic and onion also have a beneficial effect on heart disease.

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