Eating for Heart Health on Father's Day

When my Mom called in October 2010 to tell me that my Dad had Heart Disease, it was a strong reminder that even HE was human. He was in the hospital to receive a stent in his left anterior descending artery (the "LAD", aptly named the Widow Maker artery). As kids, we often grow up with a view of our parents as super heroes without a kryptonite. It quickly sunk in that his kryptonite had been found in the form of plaque lining an extremely important coronary artery. My Father was (and remains) my biggest male inspiration, a role model, and a best friend, and it was clear now that he was vulnerable to life's health challenges just like the rest of us. As I would find out that day after my first google search of Heart Disease, it is the leading cause of death in the U.S.

My Dad's LAD was 83% clogged. My parents took walks nearly every day, and on this most recent return up the hill to my home, my Father was pale, had shortness of breath, and felt lightheaded. Thankfully, he listened to my Mom, who forced him into the car in order to get to the Hospital. He is very healthy today, despite taking several daily pills and having to keep a very close eye on his diet. 

A few years after this call, Charlie and I would start SuperEats with the goal of helping others like ourselves snack healthier. In line with that goal, and in honor of a healthy Father's Day, we wanted to share some diet tips from a Cardiologist, Dr. Richard Collins. Thank you again, Dr. Collins, from the SuperEats team, and Happy Father's Day to everyone.

[Top: Charlie and his Dad, Bill Ruehr. Bottom: Aaron and his Dad, Jon Gailmor]

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Heart-Healthy Tips to Control the BIG Three 

Cooking and eating with your heart health in mind, is the best thing you can do for your overall health and can lessen your chance of disease, such as cardiovascular and diabetes. 

There are three primary factors that link the food you eat to heart health:

  • Cholesterol
  • Blood Pressure
  • Inflammation

By focusing on those three areas, we can start to determine where you need to make a change in your diet. Remember eating heart healthy isn't just something you do on occasion. It can be a challenge at first, but once you discover new flavors and better ways to eat for your overall health you will feel better!

With cholesterol, we want to control the bad guy known as LDL (low density lipoprotein) because by lowering that number your risk for a heart attack or a stroke will plummet. Cholesterol clogs your arteries and it's always important to listen to what your doctor recommends for decreasing that high cholesterol level. 

High blood pressure is also aggravated by diet and is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard. Food high in salt is the main culprit for high blood pressure, but research shows if you include more fruits and vegetables and whole grains in your meals this diet change can help lower blood pressure. 

Your food choices have a significant impact on the inflammation in your arteries as well and can trigger responses in the body. Instead of reaching for partially hydrogenated oils that are found in some foods, try eating more herbs, spices and more anti-oxidant rich superfoods. A low-fat diet and eating to control these BIG 3 are key!

General Principles:

  • Eat a Mediterranean based diet (fish, veggies, nuts, fruits, olive oil etc.)
  • Reduce Saturated Fats (high-fat dairy, dark & fatty meats)
  • Eliminate trans fats (look for 0 grams of trans fats on nutritional labels)
  • Eat your fruits and vegetables
  • Add plant stanols and sterols
  • Eat lots of Omega-3s (found in fatty fish, flax seed, walnut oils)
  • Eat more fiber
  • Read nutritional labels!
  • Manage your weight and exercise 

By taking steps to keep your cardiovascular system healthy and follow these simple principles, you will see a positive, significant improvement in your overall health. Cook well and live long! - Dr. Richard Collins 

June 21, 2015 by Aaron Gailmor
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