About heart-healthy foods
Keeping our heart healthy is paramount to our overall wellness, but aside from regular physical activity and exercise, what can we do to protect it? In this post, we’ll explore why a good heart-heathy diet is so important; review common heart conditions and recommend heart-healthy food to nourish your system. We’ll also provide information about how you can get in touch with the Western Washington Medical Group Cardiology team.
Why is heart health important?
The heart beats about 2.5 billion times throughout an average lifetime, pumping blood throughout the body. It has a never-ending “workload” of carrying oxygen, cells, hormones and other components through that blood to keep us alive. When we don’t take proper care of our cardiovascular health, we put ourselves at risk of several heart conditions; some of which can be life threatening.
Common Heart Conditions
Some of the most often seen heart conditions include:
Arrhythmia. Essentially this is what is otherwise known as an irregular heartbeat. It happens as a result of a malfunction in the electrical signals that coordinate the heart’s beats. The poor signals cause the heart to beat too fast, which is called ‘tachycardia’ or too slow, which is referred to as ‘bradycardia.’ The heart can also go ‘off rhythm’ completely to produce a true irregular heartbeat. Some patients may be asymptomatic, but those who do have symptoms often experience dizziness, fainting or chest pains. Treatment includes medication, implantable devices and surgery.
High Blood Pressure. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is indicated by a reading of over 140/90. Those with severe hypertension have numbers above 180/120. Having this can lead to serious ailments like heart disease and stroke. Though there are often no symptoms, high blood pressure can be treated with medication and lifestyle modifications.
Coronary Heart Disease. The leading cause of death in our country, coronary heart disease develops when the heart’s arteries fail to deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart. This is typically caused by a buildup of plaque, which narrows the arteries. Symptoms may include chest pains and heart attacks, though many often don’t experience any indication of the disease, which makes it especially dangerous. Treatments include diet and exercise changes, medications, angioplasty and surgery.
Congestive Heart Failure. This is a chronic condition in which the heart fails to pump blood effectively, either due to an inability to pump or fill adequately. A patient with this condition may experience shortness of breath, increased heartbeat, legs that swell and fatigue. Diet modifications, changes in fluid intake and medications are all common treatments, though a pacemaker may be implanted in more severe cases.
Peripheral Artery Disease. This happens in the legs or lower extremities and is caused by blockages of the vessels that transport blood from the heart to the legs. Usually caused by atherosclerosis (fatty buildup in the arteries), it is usually found after the patient experiences persistent leg pains. Lifestyle modifications can usually eliminate symptoms, but in some cases medication or surgery may be recommended.
Stroke. This disease impacts the arteries that lead to and function within the brain. It happens when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain ruptures or gets blocked by a clot. Strokes are a leading cause of disability in our country, as many who survive are left with partial paralysis. Common symptoms include numbness of the face, arm or leg, or partial paralysis in addition to sudden loss of or blurred vision. Patients may also experience slurred speaking or mental confusion. Treatment can include medication, therapy, surgery and lifestyle modifications.
Good Foods for a Healthy Heart
- Leafy greens like spinach and kale
- Cranberries, blueberries and strawberries
- Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna
- Poultry like chicken or turkey (without the skin)
- Beans, peas and lentils
- Fruits that are high in beta-carotene such as apricots, tomatoes and cantaloupe melons
- Vegetables like broccoli and carrots
- Dark Chocolate (made of at least 70% cocoa)
- Whole grain oatmeal and quinoa
It’s also important to limit alcohol and stay away from processed foods, which are often high in trans fats, sugar and sodium.
Consult with a Cardiologist
If you’d like the help of a medical professional to plan heart-healthy meals or suspect you may have a heart condition that needs treatment, contact WWMG Cardiology to schedule an appointment. For more general inquiries, use the form on this page