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Simply put, one of the most important organs in the human body. Yet while it single-handedly gives us life, it is the most common leading cause of death in the United States. Arkansas alone is number 4 out of 50 on the ranking list for most common deaths related to heart diseases in the US. The good news is that when asked the question “what is the biggest preventable measure you can take to avoid heart disease?” choosing health habits was the first and most effective way to maintain good heart health so you can never miss a beat!
To not make things too difficult, the heart is a pump and has two essential jobs for the human body to survive. It needs to provide the body with oxygen-rich blood so the body can be supported, but the heart also takes away the unoxygenated blood (the blood that was already used) and brings it through all the chambers of the heart to re-pump and start the cycle all over again. As long as you are alive your heart never stops pumping which means every 24 hours your heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood just in one day. To help visualize that a little better, every week your heart can almost fill up an average-sized swimming pool.
The biggest culprit for heart disease is saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugar, and here’s how…
There are two types of cholesterol that our bodies harbor, also known as good and bad cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is considered to be good cholesterol.
This is cholesterol that can be easily disposed of in the body and isn’t harmful to organ function; however, its counterpart, LDL, collects in the walls of the blood vessels and builds up plaque in the arteries, which if there is enough, blocks blood flow in the heart which leads to a higher chance to develop heart disease and even the risk of a heart attack. Both saturated and trans-fat have increased LDL cholesterol and decreased HDL cholesterol, which isn’t optimal for a healthy heart. Foods like beef, pork, lamb, cream, butter, cheese, margarine, and highly processed food (packaged cakes, cookies, crackers, doughnuts, and store-bought frosting) are found with high values of these fats and LDL cholesterol.
Diets high in sodium also can lead the body to hold onto fluid and not release it. With this extra fluid, it too will circulate in the body which leads to a heart that has to pump harder leading to heart disease. Foods like salty snacks, processed meats, sauces, and processed/shelf-stable foods are the biggest contributors to high sodium consumption.
Last but not least, we have added sugars. If there is an excess of added sugars, it can mess with our body’s natural insulin levels, which in turn, will lead to heart disease. A study in 2014 saw a positive correlation (increased relationship) between the rise of heart disease and added sugar consumption. Foods like soda, sports drinks, cookies, cakes, and candy (just to name a few) all have added sugar well above the daily recommended value.
Now that all that scary information is over, it’s time to talk about that happy ending I was telling you about earlier. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fats high in omega-3-6-9 will decrease your heart disease risk and even give you more benefits than just a strong pumping heart. Well Fed’s mission to provide healthy food only benefits you to live a healthier life and to prevent your risk of disease for a happy and healthier life! I can’t HEARTly wait to see how you will take steps to live a heart-healthy life!
Anna Polo, Dietetic Intern