STUDY What's a heart-friendly diet? Go easy on salt and eat more fresh fruit and vegetables
Ahealthy diet sustains us, but a poor diet can lead to increased blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar levels and weight and put you at heart disease risk.
According to Donna Arnett, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Epidemiology in the University of Alabama, diet is only ‘one component of the overall cause of heart disease.' But, it can exert a strong influence.
Sodium also is considered the culprit for high blood pressure. Sodium attracts water into your cells; the increased fluid raises your blood pressure and subsequently raises your risk of stroke and heart attack, heart failure and death, Arnett says.
Race also plays a role in risk. UAB researchers recently examined the effects of sodium intake by raceand found a stronger association with death in black participants than whites, says Suzanne Judd, assistant professor of biostatistics at UAB and the study's lead author. Blacks with the highest sodium intake (average of 2,600 mg/day) had a 62 per cent increased risk of dying, while whites had no increased risk, she said.
“This supports the AHA recommendation that there may need to be race-specific sodium guidelines, but everyone should reduce their sodium intake,” Judd says. The AHA has an aggressive sodium goal of 1,500 mg per day for everyone.
First, Arnett said, increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat, especially the leafy kind. “This provides more potassium, which is associated with lower blood pressure,” Arnett said. “Fresh is the best source for fruits and vegetables, but canned versions can provide nutrition.” The primary drawback to canned and frozen foods is added sodium. But Arnett offers a solution: “Rinse these foods before cooking to help reduce sodium.”