Diet and Lifestyle Prevention Recommendations for Cardiovascular Disease

In 2006, the AHA created diet and lifestyle recommendations to reduce the risk for or manage cardiovascular disease in adults and children over the age of 2. Here are some highlights of their recommendations:

• Balance calorie intake and physical activity to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight.
• Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other high-fiber foods; high-fiber diets can reduce cardiovascular disease risk by decreasing cholesterol production in the body and increasing removal of harmful cholesterol from the body. High-fiber diets can also slow the progression of cardiovascular disease in those at high risk.
• Eat fish, especially oily fish, at least twice a week (for a total of about 8 ouces); fish provides the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, which can lower the risk of both sudden death and death from cardiovascular disease. For those with cardiovascular disease, the AHA recommends 1 gram of EPA and DHA from fish and/or fish oil supplements. For those with hypertriglyceridemia, the AHA recommends 2-4 grams of EPA and DHA from supplements (in capsule form). Be sure to consult a physician before you take fish oil supplements.
• Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of total calories, trans fat intake to less than 1 percent of total calories, and dietary cholesterol to less than 30 mg per day.
• Minimize intake of beverages and foods with added sugars.
• Choose and prepare foods with little or no sodium.
• If you consume alcohol, so in moderation (up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men).

Consuming foods that are naturally rich in and enriched with plant stanols / sterols can reduce the absorption of cholesterol to lower total and LDL cholesterol levels. According to the AHA, maximum effects are seen with intakes of 2 grams per day of plant stanols. Those who reduce their cholesterol levels by taking plant stanols and sterols will need to consume them each day to maintain their benefits.

Following the previous recommendations and those of MyPyramid can reduce the risk for cardiovascular and other diet-related diseases by promoting weight loss, reducing LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and raising HDL cholesterol.

Those with diagnosed cardiovascular diseases or with risk factors such as high total and/or LDL cholesterol levels can also be prescribed medications as part of treatment, and many (or all) work more effectively when taken as part of an overall healthful dietary pattern.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a condition in which coronary arteries, which carry blood to the heart, are narrowed so much they may slow or stop blood flow to the heart.

Myocardial infarction (MI), or heart attack, occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked.

Angina pectoris, or angina, is chest pain that occurs when the heart can’t get enough oxygen from the blood. It is a common symptom of CHD.

Heart failure resulting from a cardiac disease, which compromises ventricular systolic or diastolic function, or both. Heart failure results when the heart is unable to generate a cardiac output sufficient to meet the demands of the body without unduly increasing diastolic pressure. Heart failure can be of the body without unduly increasing diastolic pressure. Heart failure can be manifested by symptoms of poor tissue perfusion alone (for example, fatigue, poor exercise tolerance, and confusion) or by both symptoms of poor tissue perfusion and congestion of vascular beds (for example, dyspnea, chest rales, pleural effusion, pulmonary edema, distended neck veins, congested liver, and peripheral edema).

Plaque is made up of cholesterol, fat, and other substances that build up on the inner walls of blood vessels.

Cardiomyopathy is a weakening or change in the structure of the heart muscle; it often manifests as inadequate heart pumping or other problems with heart function.

Lipoproteins are made up of lipids, and protein; they dissolve in water and carry cholesterol through the blood and around the body either to or from blood vessels.

Refined carbohydrates are simple sugars or starches that have undergone processing.

The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) – created in 1985 by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLB) – provides information for educators and the public to reduce the number of Americans with high blood cholesterol and prevent illness and death from CHD.

Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or infection both externally and internally.

Hypertriglyceridemia is elevated blood triglycerides (blood fats).

Plant Stanols / Sterols are beneficial compounds found naturally in small amounts in plant foods that block cholesterol absorption.

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