In 2012, 45.4% of all heart disease deaths could be attributed to inadequate intake of certain foods, according to a recently published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
We've known for decades that what you eat significantly affects heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hemorrhages, diabetes, and inflammation. These results were based on a variety of different kinds of studies - epidemiologic, prospective, and clinical trials - set out to quantify the effect of specific foods on heart disease deaths.
The Intake of These Top 5 Foods, In Order of Predominance, Affect Your Heart Most Dramatically
1. High Sodium: Sodium, usually eaten in the form of salt, which is half sodium, pulls fluid into your blood vessels. This extra fluid increases the force of the blood against artery walls, reducing the flow of blood to your organs, making it harder for your heart to pump the blood efficiently, and damaging your heart. This excess force (or "pressure") stresses the artery walls, potentially causing tears, blood clots, aneurysms and strokes. The recommendation is to take in less than 2,300 mg daily. Most Americans eat at least double that.
2. Low Nuts and Seeds: Epidemiological studies have found for decades that nut and seed eaters around the world have fewer heart attacks. The oil in nuts contains nutrients which seem to have a positive impact on heart function and increases good cholesterol, which helps prevent bad cholesterol from clogging the arteries. Also, studies show nuts and seeds help keep body weight down, a major risk factor for heart disease. Eat 2 ounces per day for maximum effect.
3. High Processed Meats: Processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon, sausage, bologna and ham are a major sodium source. They're also usually high in saturated fats, which increase bad cholesterol. Since they are the highest dietary factor correlated with cancer, this gives you another reason to minimize processed meats. But when on the occasions that you might eat them, to minimize potential damage, pair with foods high in potassium and antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables. Potassium and antioxidants may help neutralize the effects of sodium and the chemicals used in meat processing.
4. Low Omega-3-Fatty Acid Fish: Omega-3-Fatty Acids help prevent heart disease in many ways. They prevent irregular heart beat, reduce fatty placques inside artery walls, decrease blood clotting, tryglycerides (blood fats), increase good cholesterol and decrease inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends eating about 12 ounces of fatty fish weekly.
5. Low Fruit and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables have many qualities responsible for the reduction of heart disease risk. They are high in potassium, which helps neutralize the effect of sodium on blood volume by pulling fluid from the arteries, reducing the blood's pressure on the artery walls. They are high in water content, which studies show helps you feel more full with fewer calories, thus aiding weight loss (high body fat is the primary controllable risk factor for heart disease). Health authorities at the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend 5 cups of fruits and/or vegetables daily. They should comprise at least half of the volume on your plates.
On Sunday, March 19, the House of Sweden hosted the Washington Area Bicyclists Association for their 15th annual Vasa Ride. This lively WABA tribute to the renownd annual 90 K Swedish Vasaloppet Cross Country Ski Race, uses bicycles instead.
Sunday's bike ride, though, was a kinder and gentler version of the Swedish ski race, which is a tribute to the founding of a free Sweden. The first Swedish "Vasaloppet" was carried out in 1521 by Gustav Eriksson when he led occupation forces in an uprising against Danish rule from the town, Salen. This resulted in Eriksson, better known as Gustav Vasa, becoming a free Sweden's first King and Vasaloppet's namesake. But it wasn't until 1922 that this endurance race was established and held its first run, also starting in Salen, with 136 skiiers, and took 7 hours, 32 minutes and 49 seconds in sleet and snow for the victor.
This year's March 4, 2017 Vasaloppet registered 15,800 participants from 43 nations, and is the largest and longest ski race in the world. The winner, Norwegian John Kristian Dahl, won the race after 4 hours and 8 minutes.
Several years ago, the Swedish Embassy and WABA got together to create the annual Vasa Ride, with bikes, since D.C. doesn't usually have enough snow for a 90 km cross country ski race. The Vasa Ride has four levels of riders who choose to ride for either 59, 31, 16 or 8 miles. On March 29, the House of Sweden, as usual, was a beautiful, light-filled respite from the cold, long ride. The Swedes generously provided the home base and refreshments, including the traditional "Blueberry Soup," though the American bikers' consumption paled in comparison to almost a liter drunk by each skiier in the real Vasaloppet.
"The blueberry soup was warm and filling after the cold 30 mile ride, and it tastes better than I thought it would," said Robert Bernstein, a WABA member who came from Ellicott City, Maryland.
The Swedish Embassy's Air Force Attache, Per Danielson, coordinated the Swedish Embassy's hosting his second year in a row. Danielson was a Swedish exchange student living in Richmond thirty years ago. And with this former exchange student leading, current Swedish exchange student volunteers served blueberry soup at Sunday's event.
"It's often the first ride of the year for Washington area cyclists, and is a fundraiser for WABA," said Nick Russo, WABA's Events Coordinator. WABA's mission is "to create a healthy, more livable region by promoting bicycling for fun, fitness, and affordable transportation; advocating for better bicycling conditions and transportation choices for a healthier environment; and educating children, adults, and motorists about safe bicycling,"
My clients who suffer from seasonal allergies were hit hard this year - and earlier than usual. The warm February temperatures caused Washington's flowering trees and shrubs to come out of their winter slumber gloriously. Our famed cherry trees and camellias are almost in full bloom. Even my hydrangeas' buds are peaking out.
This beautiful display does not feel so beautiful for people with spring allergies. They often have symptoms, caused by the flowers' pollen, which impact their quality of life: lack of sleep, reduced productivity at work or school, emotional stress and embarrassment.... and the medications designed to improve those symptoms, depending on the person, may be no better, and cause dry mouth, sleeplessness, and drowsiness. A new study set out to test if certain strains of beneficial probiotic bacteria would reduce symptoms and improve quality of life during allergy season for its sufferers.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the first randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial - the gold standard of human research - testing this hypothesis, divided 178 allergy sufferers into two groups and tested them during spring allergy season for eight weeks. One group received the probiotic supplement*, the other received the placebo.
The study found the probiotic group experienced improved quality of life symptoms compared to the placebo group. That said, scientists are still working out which of the beneficial probiotic bacteria work best with individual allergens, and which probiotic bacteria will react positively with a person's specific microbiota (the 100 million bacterial organisms in your digestive tract), as each person's microbiota is different.
In the meantime, I believe eating foods which naturally contain beneficial probiotic bacteria, such as yogurt, is the best solution. I don't recommend counting on supplements because as of now, no probiotic supplements have passed the tests allowing them to make a health claim.
Here's one of my favorite yogurt recipes developed by Georgetown resident and cookbook author, Najmieh Batmanglij, and found in my book, Diet Simple...
*(Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2 provided by Wakunaga of America Co Ltd)