Heart disease, strokes, and hypertension

Eat Real Food, Not too much, Mostly Plants

(Michael Pollan)

All the evidence for living a full and active life with a minimum of ill health means eating a plant-based, wholegrain, sugar-free diet. The addition of occasional oily fish may not be harmful. Animal products (meat, white fish, eggs and dairy) are consistently shown to be harmful, as are processed grains, processed fat and sugar. This guideline uses all the available evidence to help you make better food decisions and live well.

The full guidelines may seem complicated and long (they are, hence it appearing here in sections!) but the simple answer is eat wholefoods, legumes, wholegrains, leafy vegetables, other vegetables and lots of fibre. Don’t eat highly processed white food. Pick off the easy changes first. Aim to change habits, don’t just use willpower. Don’t take supplements (even fibre or protein) unless advised by your doctor (and there is evidence for it).

Heart and stroke disease

Having heart or stroke disease is a marker of unhealthy arteries throughout the body. While the heart and brain are vital organs, usually the kidneys, gut and nerve arteries are also affected. Most of the medications we use are to improve the health of the arteries throughout the body, not just the brain and heart.

Dietary changes are also aimed at reducing the inflammation in the blood vessels and increasing the supply of nitric oxide.

The evidence for this diet in cardiovascular disease is increasing. It has been well trialed in people with severe heart disease and is the only treatment (better than drugs and surgery) known to reverse disease, although this only happens with some people. In most people it can halt disease progression, but you do have to stick to it almost all of the time.

Hypertension

Hypertension leads to cardiovascular and stroke disease if left unchecked.

There are many lifestyle changes which can improve hypertension and these include the dietary changes covered in the other posts but also:

  • Exercise: minimum of 1 hour moderate – vigorous exercise per day.
  • Reduction in salt consumption
  • Reduction in body weight (even if only by 5-10%), and/or waist circumference.
  • No or minimal alcohol consumption (less than 6 units per week)
  • Increase potassium consumption – found in many vegetables.
  • Increase fibre consumption (may need to be done slowly!)
  • Don’t smoke.
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