heart disease diet

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Heart Disease Diet and Nutrition

Nutrition and Diet Alternatives
  • Heart disease requires immediate attention and continuous follow up from a trained health professional. To avoid confusion about underlying problems, or interference with any ongoing therapy, the use of vitamin or herbal supplements must be discussed with your doctor before the regimen is begun.
  • The fats that travel around in our bloodstream have an ability to turn into troublesome compounds. When fats combines with oxygen in the wrong place at the wrong time, they can turn into compounds known as free radicals. These compounds tend to combine with whatever is nearby, turning that compound into a free radical as well. The result is a chain reaction that can end up damaging the lining of the blood vessel, the first step down the road to heart disease and an eventual heart attack. A prudent nutritional defense strategy has, as its foundation, a high-fiber, low-fat plant-based diet that includes a hefty supply of antioxidant nutrients.
  • A study in the Lancet ( Lancet 1994 Jun 11;343(8911):1454-9 -- Mediterranean alpha-linolenic acid-rich diet in secondary prevention of coronary heart disease. -- de Lorgeril M, Renaud S, Mamelle N, Salen P, Martin JL, Monjaud I, Guidollet J, Touboul P, Delaye J. ) reported that those who'd had a first heart attack and had subsequently adopted a so-called "Mediterranean diet" were 70% less likely to suffer a relapse than those following a standard low-fat diet.
  • The Mediterranean diet distinguishes by its emphasis on more whole grains, fresh fruits, more root and green vegetables, more fish and less meat (beef, lamb and pork to be replaced by poultry). They also consume more nuts, legumes and olive oil.
  • When the Mediterranean diet was analyzed, it was found, as expected, to contain more of the antioxidant vitamins than the low-fat diet. The antioxidant nutrients found in fruits and vegetables -- vitamins A, E and C -- are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.
  • As a part of the Cambridge Heart Antioxidant Study, published in the Lancet ( Lancet. 1996 Mar 23;347(9004):781-6. -- Randomised controlled trial of vitamin E in patients with coronary disease: Cambridge Heart Antioxidant Study (CHAOS) -- Stephens NG, Parsons A, Schofield PM, Kelly F, Cheeseman K, Mitchinson MJ. ), patients taking either 400 or 800 IU of vitamin E were one-fourth as likely to suffer a non-fatal heart attack as matched controls receiving a placebo.
  • Antioxidant supplements may also play an important role for those who already have heart disease. A study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology ( J Am Coll Cardiol 1997 Aug;30(2):392-9 -- Antioxidant nutrient supplementation reduces the susceptibility of low density lipoprotein to oxidation in patients with coronary artery disease. -- Mosca L, Rubenfire M, Mandel C, Rock C, Tarshis T, Tsai A, Pearson T. ) found that a daily dose of 800 IU of vitamin E, 1,000 mg of vitamin C and 24 mg of vitamin A was able to prevent the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs; the bad cholesterol), an important adjunct to preventing further problems.
Here's a list of some of the key antioxidants and other important nutrients:
  • Vitamin E is present in wheat germ, nuts and seeds, and their oils. (When taken in supplement form, avoid the synthetic "dl" tocopherols opting instead for the "d" tocopherols, preferably as a mixture of natural alpha, beta and gamma tocopherol isomers. Studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ( Am J Clin Nutr 1998 Apr;67(4):669-84 -- Human plasma and tissue alpha-tocopherol concentrations in response to supplementation with deuterated natural and synthetic vitamin E. -- Burton GW, Traber MG, Acuff RV, Walters DN, Kayden H, Hughes L, Ingold KU. ) indicate that these are better absorbed and retained than the synthetic vitamin.
  • magnesium can be found in nuts, legumes, dark green vegetables and whole grains. Although magnesium is not an antioxidant, it tends to be low in men who have heart attacks. Magnesium helps reduce arterial constriction and blockage -- the forerunners of heart attack -- and it is often used to treat heart-attack victims.
  • Vitamin C can be obtained from citrus, tropical fruits, melons, berries, peppers, broccoli. A study in Epidemiology ( Epidemiology 1998 May;9(3):316-21 -- Serum ascorbic acid and cardiovascular disease prevalence in U.S. adults. -- Simon JA, Hudes ES, Browner WS. ) found that increased ascorbic acid (vitamin C) was associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. A study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology ( J Am Coll Cardiol 1998 Apr;31(5):980-6 -- Low plasma ascorbic acid independently predicts the presence of an unstable coronary syndrome. -- Vita JA, Keaney JF Jr, Raby KE, Morrow JD, Freedman JE, Lynch S, Koulouris SN, Hankin BR, Frei B. ) found that lower amounts of ascorbic acid in the blood predicted an unstable coronary condition, such as angina or heart attack.
  • folic acid is found in dark green, leafy vegetables, legumes, citrus fruit such as oranges, tomatoes, strawberries, peanuts and folic acid-fortified cereals. RDA for an adult male or female is 400 micrograms per day.
  • At-risk populations may need to take Vitamin C and E and folic acid supplements, since it's hard to get a sufficient amount in the normal diet.
  • Selenium is present in seafood, cereals, meats, whole grains and brazil nuts. As a supplement, avoid taking more than 200 micrograms per day unless specifically instructed by your health professional.
  • Zinc can be found in oysters, whole grains, seafood and organ meats.
  • Carotenoids and other phytochemical antioxidants can be obtained from sweet potatoes, papaya, apricots, and dark yellow and green vegetables.
  • Lycopene -- cousin to beta carotene -- is found in tomatoes or is available as a supplement. A study in Nutrition Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease (1997) found that lycopene and vitamin E help protect cholesterol from oxidation.
  • Coenzyme Q-10 is found in eggs, rice bran and wheat germ. Supplemental amounts -- in addition to dietary CoQ10 -- have been associated with clinical improvements.
  • L-carnitine is a nutrient that is produced by the body. However, supplemental amounts might aid in the recovery from a heart attack or as a preventive in those at high risk for heart disease.

Herbal Recommendations - Please see Herb Safety

  • Heart disease requires immediate attention and continuous follow up from a trained health professional. To avoid confusion about underlying problems, or interference with any ongoing therapy, the use of vitamin or herbal supplements must be discussed with your doctor before the regimen is begun.
  • Commission E -- an expert committee on herbal remedies established by Germany's Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices -- has approved hawthorn with flower to relax heart muscle and improve circulation to the heart muscle; it may be used to treat cardiac insufficiency.
  • According to Commission E, ginkgo biloba leaf extract can improve blood flow in blocked arteries. And garlic, says Commission E, is effective in lowering blood pressure and inhibiting platelet aggregation.

References and Sources: Medline, Pubmed, National Institutes of Health.

last update: December 2008

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this material to diagnose or treat a health condition or disease without consulting with your healthcare provider.
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