Nutrition and cardiovascular diseases

Nutrition and cardiovascular diseases

This article was medically reviewed by M.Pharm, Marko Tanaskovic on August 12, 2018. To read more about an author, click here.

Nutrition is an important part of the primary, secondary and tertiary prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Along with pharmacotherapy in people with cardiovascular disease, nutritional therapy should be always implemented. Dietary recommendations for these patients are based primarily on the food pyramid.

As you probably know already, cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the importance of proper nutrition in the prevention of these diseases.

As we have already said, nutritional therapy is an important part of all levels of prevention:

  • Primary prevention, which includes the prevention of cardiovascular diseases in patients who are at higher risk for these diseases.
  • Secondary prevention refers to the patients that already have cardiovascular disease in the early stage. It involves the use of an appropriate dietary regime as well as changing their life style along with the use of appropriate medications prescribed by a doctor.
  • Tertiary prevention refers to the patient who has cardiovascular disease in its advanced stage.

Nutrition of healthy people in order to prevent cardiovascular disease

Here are some healthy eating tips in order to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease:

  • If you are overweight, lose those excess pounds! Obesity is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke!
  • Fats should make up less than 30% of your total daily energy intake.
  • Saturated fats should make up less than 5% of your total daily energy intake and they should be replaced with polyunsaturated fatty acids (such as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids).
  • Complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides, mainly from fruits and vegetables) should make up at least 60% of your total daily energy intake.
  • Cholesterol intake should be less than 300 mg per day.
  • Salt intake should be less than 5 grams a day, especially in people who already have hypertension.

People who have cardiovascular disease should eat in accordance with the recommendations of the food pyramid that is recommended by the World Health Organization. The basic components of nutrition should be grains (especially oats, barley porridge, buckwheat porridge and other types of grain dishes), and fruits and vegetables that should be eaten fresh. You can also use milk and dairy products but always choose those with a low fat content. Fish and fish meat (roasted or cooked) is strongly recommended for people with cardiovascular disease (should be eaten at least 3 times a week). Fish is an excellent source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids which will prevent damage to blood vessels and reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke.

From poultry meat, it is recommended to eat those with low fat (turkey and chicken), and you should avoid fried meat.

You can also eat veal, while pork should be avoided due to its high content of saturated fatty acids.

Try to reduce your intake of spices, especially salt. It is not recommended to take more than one teaspoon of salt per day.

For cardiovascular patients, it is particularly important to get essential nutrients through food or in the form of dietary supplements. Vitamin B6, folic acid (vitamin B9), vitamin B12 and vitamin B17 are particularly important since they reduce the level of homocysteine in the blood, which improves the outcome of the disease. Vitamin B3 (nicotinic acid) lowers blood cholesterol levels.

In addition to B group vitamins, it is also important for cardiovascular patients to get enough vitamin E and vitamin C per day as well as minerals and trace elements (calcium, magnesium and selenium).

Although we believe that it is best to get all of these vitamins through food, unfortunately it is almost impossible to meet your vitamin daily requirements with food. Therefore, it is sometimes necessary to use dietary supplements.

Basically, almost every cardiovascular disease occurs due to atherosclerosis which is mainly caused by elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Therefore, it is very important to bring your cholesterol and triglycerides within their normal limits.

Nutrition tips to lower triglycerides

In the table below are listed nutritionist's advice related to the diet of patients with high triglyceride levels:

Food Allowed Forbidden
Fruit Pear, apple, cherry, peach, tangerine, nectarine, orange, kiwi, watermelon, cantaloupe, raspberries, blackberries, lemon, blueberry and quince Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, grapes, figs, dried fruits, canned fruits and compotes
Vegetables Fresh vegetables and vegetables that have been prepared without the use of fats and oils as well as cooked potatoes Fried potatoes (French fries), puree and peanut
Fish Cooked or roasted fish Fried fish
Meat Chicken (skinless), turkey, veal and lamb Fatty red meat, pates, canned meat, bacon, sausages, salami, offal, chicken skin, etc.
Milk and dairy products Low fat cheese, sour milk, low fat yogurt Sour cream, butter, cheese, and milk with a high fat content
Sweets / Almost all sweets, including sugar, honey, cakes, cookies, chocolate, crepes, sweets
Oils Olive oil for salads, grape seed oil for frying Lard, margarine, sunflower oil
Spices Rosemary, ginger, a small amount of salt, a small amount of mustard Ketchup and mayonnaise
Bread and pasta Rice, rye or oat bread (in small amounts) Wheat bread, various kinds of breads, pizza, macaroni and spaghetti
Snack foods / All kinds of snack foods, including potato chips and popcorn

Nutrition tips to lower your cholesterol levels

In the table below, we have listed a nutritionist's advice for people with high blood cholesterol:

Food Allowed Forbidden
Eggs Egg white Yolk
Milk and dairy products Milk and dairy products with a maximum of 1% of milk fat (in small amounts) Sour cream, butter and dairy products, with more than 1% of milk fats
Fish and other meat Saltwater fish, chicken, turkey, veal and beef Cured meat, sausage, bacon, ham, salami, canned meat and offal
Vegetables All vegetables if prepared without fats and oils French fries, avocado and peanuts
Fruits All fruits (fresh) Coconut
Beverages Green tea and coffee (more than 2 cups a day) Hot chocolate
Bread and pasta Oat bread and rye bread Wheat bread, rolls, spaghetti and macaroni
Oils Olive oil for salads or grape seed oil for frying food Sunflower oil
Candies Integral cookies All other candies and sweets

How much can lifestyle changes reduce your high blood pressure?

The table below shows how much certain lifestyle changes can reduce blood pressure:

Type of lifestyle change Impact on blood pressure
Diet Lowering blood pressure for 5 - 15 mm Hg
Losing weight in obese people Lowering blood pressure for 5 - 20 mm Hg
Physical activity Lowering blood pressure for 5 - 10 mm Hg
Reducing salt intake Lowering blood pressure for 4 - 10 mm Hg

Information on this website are provided for educational purposes only and are not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.

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