Change your diet for better heart health

Published 7:51 pm Saturday, February 26, 2011

Changing your diet can reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

There’s a lot of information out there to indicate that your diet has a lot to do with your heart health, said Dr. Edward Skillen, fellow of American Cardiology who practices at Harbour View.

“Heart attacks and strokes are really related to our diets,” he said.

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He recommends heart-healthy foods like whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits and nuts.

Eat fewer processed foods and animal proteins, he said.

“No one wants to give up their eggs or meat, but in truth it is not good for you.”

Foods that are partially hydrogenated are bad for you, like what is found in margarine, crackers and more.

“In general, any type of processed food has some problems with it,” he said.

It’s worse to eat processed foods than to eat animal protein in most cases, he said. “Unfortunately, in America, we are all used to eating the same diet,” he said.

Americans tend to eat a lot of meats, eggs, cheeses and dairy that all contain animal protein and fats. Having too many fats in your diet can raise your cholesterol and cause plaque build up in your arteries, increasing your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

“It’s difficult to make changes,” Skillen said. Most people won’t want to cut back completely.

He doesn’t believe that you can cut your cholesterol down to the level it should be by cutting back on your fat intake unless you became a vegan, he said.

But, he added, “Try to cut down some. Try to minimize it as much as you can in your diet.”

When you pinpoint the foods that are hurting you the most, you will know what you need to do.

“When you know that is causing the problem, it only makes sense that you should cut that down in your diet,” he said.

The best way to cut back would be to do cut back gradually, he said. Start out with a Mediterranean diet first, he advised, and then keep trying to modify that to get your cholesterol down.

He recommends that a diet with no more than five percent animal protein intake would be most healthy. In the United States, he said, most of us eat somewhere around 25 percent animal protein or more.

“If we get our diet under control and exercise, we will no longer have this problem,” he said.