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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) include two of the most dreaded illnesses – heart attack and brain stroke, both of which can lead to devastating consequences, including death. The risk factors for both these CVD are common and include among several others like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity. All of these four important risk factors have a common causative thread and that is unhealthy eating habits. Thus, an unhealthy diet is a very important cause of CVD.
There are certain foods that cause more harm or are more detrimental and must be avoided or consumed in limited portions.
Sugary foods such as baked items and desserts, and sugary drinks such as soft drinks contain large amount of sugar that increase your risk of having a heart problem. Consuming excess sugar can lead to accumulation of fat, can worsen pre-existing diabetes, can increase chronic inflammation and can also contribute to weight gain and obesity, all of which are factors that make you more prone to heart disease. Sugary foods are also known to be addicting.
Processed foods include processed carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, low-fiber cereals, etc. The processing or refining gets rid of essential nutrients present in whole grains, and sometimes also adds unhealthy ingredients like salts and sugars. These have shown to produce higher spikes in blood sugar, and also increase the liver’s production of fat. In contrast, whole grains have been linked to lower weight gain by curbing hunger, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve blood vessel function and overall reduce the risk of heart diseases.
Deep frying food can convert a healthy meal to an extremely unhealthy one by adding calories, fats, and sodium, all of which are related to greater risk of heart disease. Fried foods are believed to increase the levels of your bad cholesterol (LDL) and even lower the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) in your body. Additionally, fried foods may add to obesity and high blood pressure, which once again make you more prone to heart attacks.
Saturated fats include foods like butter, processed meats such as bacon, ham and salami, red meat, and high-fat dairy foods. While fats are needed by the body for energy, saturated fats increase your bad cholesterol (LDL), which can build up in your arteries and increase risk of heart attack. A lot of these foods also contain high salt levels or preservatives, which are also linked with poor heart health.
Salt causes spikes in blood pressure, and increases the strain on your heart. Consuming excess salt in your diet causes your body to retain excess water, leading to an increase in blood pressure that can in turn damage your arteries and heart.
While these foods are widely known to have adverse effects on your cardiac health, consuming them occasionally and in limited portions will not do much harm. However, including these as part of your staple diet is not advisable.
There are several healthier alternatives to each of the foods above, and these small lifestyle changes will lead to a stronger and healthier heart.