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Did you know that each year, heart disease and stroke kill more people in the U.S. than all cancers, lower respiratory diseases and cases of influenza and pneumonia combined?
What does that mean? Is making lifestyle changes like getting more exercise, losing weight, drinking less alcohol, smoking less and relaxing more just too hard to do?
They’re not easy for sure. But what may be the hardest is following a heart-healthy diet. Sometimes being told what to eat is not as easy to follow as being told what not to eat…
And we’re saved! Research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has given us a list of foods to avoid (and some to eat more of) to beat down this silent contributor of heart disease…
Pro-inflammatory foods linked to heart problems
Researchers have long known that low-grade chronic inflammation is a silent contributor to heart disease. That’s why a team of scientists at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health set out to determine what foods have a significant impact on certain inflammatory biomarkers associated with atherosclerosis and heart risk.
The researchers followed over 210,000 participants for up to 32 years (clearly, this was no flash-in-the-pan study), then analyzed and evaluated inflammation levels associated with dietary intake of foods to determine inflammatory potential and the rate of cardiovascular disease.
And here’s what it came down to…
The researchers found that certain foods are what they call “pro-inflammatory” — meaning that they dramatically increase inflammatory biomarkers in the body. In fact, eating these foods can raise your risk of heart disease by a massive 46 percent and your risk of stroke by 28 percent!
Foods that are the major contributors to the pro-inflammatory diet index that you should avoid or severely restrict include:
- Refined sugars
- Refined grains
- Fried foods
- Processed, red and organ meats
It’s certainly no surprise to you that these foods are on the “bad for you” list. But now, you’ve got more incentive to avoid them knowing they can increase your heart disease risk by 46 percent, right?
Take down disease-causing inflammation
On the other hand, the researchers say that consuming foods with higher levels of antioxidants and fiber could help combat the inflammation that starts the cascade into heart disease. Here’s where to find those nutrients:
- Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, and especially legumes and whole grains such as barley, oats, and bran
- Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish (such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna), vegetable oils (flaxseed and canola), walnuts, flaxseeds, and leafy green vegetables (spinach and kale)
- Polyphenols (plant chemicals) are found in berries, dark chocolate, tea, apples, citrus, onions, soybeans, and coffee
- Unsaturated fats are found in almonds, pecans, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and plant oils (olive, peanut, canola)
You may have read my colleague’s post on how omega-3s were shown to help heart attack survivors come out on top. If not, it’s a fast two-minute read that details how ALA (plant-sourced omega-3) and EPA (omega-3s from fish) are a complementary heart-protective combination. EPA is associated with lower risk of hospital readmission and ALA is associated with lower risk of death.
So if you want to avoid becoming a heart disease statistic, fighting inflammation is a no-brainer. But that’s not all you’ll be doing…
According to Liz Moore, a registered dietitian at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the evidence that trying to minimize inflammation through dietary changes reduces the risk of diseases “is strongest for arthritis, gastrointestinal and heart health, and possibly autoimmune diseases.”
Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!
Leading Causes of Death — CDC
Lifestyle Changes for Heart Attack Prevention — American Heart Association
Quick-start guide to an anti-inflammation diet — Havard Health