The road to longevity is lined with obstacles and one that proves insurmountable for some is heart disease. The major killer falls under the cardiovascular disease (CVD) umbrella, a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels. CVD is the number one cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Fortunately, heart disease is a preventable condition and diet is a modifiable risk factor.
Many dietary items can help to stave off the risk by stymying the mechanisms that contribute to heart disease.
Acai berries, a Brazilian superfruit native to the Amazon region, has been shown to improve LDL cholesterol levels.
LDL cholesterol is a harmful substance that clogs up inside of your artery walls, cutting off the blood supply to the heart – the primary cause of heart disease.
Animal studies have also suggested that acai could help improve cholesterol levels by decreasing total and LDL cholesterol.
While more research is needed, researchers postulate that anthocyanins in acai could be responsible for their positive impact on cholesterol levels, since studies have linked this plant compound to improvements in HDL and LDL cholesterol.
HDL cholesterol is branded the “good” cholesterol because it counters the harmful effects of LDL cholesterol.
What’s more, acai contains plant sterols, which prevent cholesterol from being absorbed by your body, research shows.
General dietary tips to reduce heart disease risk
While certain items are essential, the most important dietary approach is to focus on heart-healthy food groups.
According to the NHS, a low-fat, high-fibre diet is recommended, which should include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (five portions a day) and whole grains.
“You should limit the amount of salt you eat to no more than six grams (0.2oz) a day as too much salt will increase your blood pressure,” warns the health body.
High blood pressure can raise your risk of heart disease by narrowing your blood vessels.
You should avoid food containing saturated fats, because these will increase the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood.
Foods high in saturated fat include:
- Meat pies
- Sausages and fatty cuts of meat
- Ghee – a type of butter often used in Indian cooking.
- Regular exercise also offers a potent defence against heart disease.
Harvard Health explains: “Regular exercise also improves factors linked to cardiovascular health, resulting in lower blood pressure, healthier cholesterol levels, and better blood sugar regulation.”
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