Healthy food for your heart: prevent cardiovascular disease!

Cardiovascular diseases are one of the most common causes of death in the Netherlands. Part of it has to do with heredity, but a very large part also depends on our modern lifestyle! So your own behavior can make a lot of difference.

Food in particular has a huge impact on the health of your heart and blood vessels. But what should you eat to prevent cardiovascular disease? In other words: what is healthy food for your heart? We give you an overview in this blog!

Causes cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular diseases are actually not one cause of death. It is a collective name for all kinds of different conditions that have to do with your heart and blood vessels; think of a heart attack or a stroke, for example.

Since it is such a broad problem, there are also many possible causes. Yet they can often be traced back to a few specific problems! The main causes of cardiovascular disease are:

High blood pressure. If there is too much pressure on your veins and organs, it can cause all kinds of damage in the long run. This increases the risk of complications.

High cholesterol. Cholesterol sticks to the walls of your veins. This makes it more difficult for your blood to flow through it, which can reduce or even cut off the blood supply

Diabetes. When you suffer from diabetes, you are more likely to suffer from damage to the heart and blood vessels, for example due to chronic inflammation.

Overweight. Being overweight increases the risk of all of the above problems. So it is not surprising that overweight people are one of the main risk groups for cardiovascular disease!

Prevent cardiovascular disease

The good news is that many of these causes can be prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle . The most important factors are the following:

1. Movement

Sufficient activity keeps your heart and blood vessels healthy in many ways. For starters, it keeps your heart in good shape. In addition, the blood pressure decreases, for example, if you regularly exercise!

And the good news is, you don’t even have to exercise intensively to experience these benefits. Brisk walking or working in the garden has a lot of effect, for example. Try five days a week for half an hour exercise at moderate intensity. This gives your health a huge boost.

2. Relaxation

Both short-term and long-term stress contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease. It probably has to do with adrenaline. That hormone increases blood pressure and heart rate , which increases your risk of damage in the long term.

It is therefore important to regularly relax consciously! This can be done in many ways: read a book, take a walk or lie down in a warm bath… Whatever works for you to clear your mind for a while.

3. Do not smoke

Smoking increases blood pressure and also supplies your body with all kinds of harmful substances that affect the functioning of the heart. So you are a lot healthier without cigarettes!

Do you smoke yet? Then that is no reason to keep doing it, because the risk decreases quickly after you stop. For example, not smoking for a year halves the risk of a heart attack!

4. Eating healthy

The last factor to prevent cardiovascular disease is healthy eating. With that you can have a major influence on all risk factors! We’ll go into more detail about the best nutrition for your heart below, but the general guidelines are as follows:

Not too much saturated fat. Saturated fat in itself is not unhealthy, but it does contribute to the production of cholesterol. If you eat too much of it, your veins clog up faster! Saturated fat is mainly found in animal products.

Not too much salt. Salt ensures that you retain more moisture. If you get too much of it, your blood pressure will rise to unhealthy levels, with all the consequences that entails.

No alcohol. Alcohol consumption increases blood pressure and can lead to, for example, cardiac arrhythmias and bleeding in the brain. According to some studies, one glass of red wine a day has a beneficial effect on your heart, but if you look at your health as a whole, the advice is not to drink at all!

Healthy food for your heart

These guidelines are useful, but remain very general. How can you actually improve your diet to prevent cardiovascular disease? Below we list the most important 9 tips for choosing healthy food for your heart!

1. Spices instead of salt

Most people eat too much salt. That is of course not without reason: your food will taste a lot better! Fortunately, salt isn’t the only option. To reduce salt, you can partly replace it with herbs and spices when cooking . An extra plus is that you also get more varied flavors with it.

2. Fatty fish instead of meat

Meat, specially red meat is high in saturated-fat. The advice is therefore to eat a maximum of 300 red meat per week. But how do you get your proteins?

Fish contains a lot less saturated fat, while fatty fish is rich in unsaturated fats . A good rule of thumb is to replace meat with fish twice a week: once with fatty fish and once with leaner fish!

3. Vegetable proteins instead of meat

In addition, it is very healthy to eat a little more vegetable proteins . They again contain a lot less saturated fat, and you also get all kinds of other healthy substances from them that you would otherwise miss.

Fortunately, there is also plenty to vary with vegetable protein. Chickpeas do well in curry, lentils are delicious in a stew and tofu and tempeh are completely at home in Asian dishes. You can also use beans in soups , or in a delicious chili sin carne. Again, the advice is to opt for vegetable proteins at least twice a week.

4. Low-fat dairy instead of full-fat dairy

Many saturated fats also come from dairy. Fortunately, this is very easy to reduce, namely by choosing lean or half-full varieties more often. It is wise to continue to use dairy, because you also get useful nutrients such as calcium and proteins from it!

5. Oil instead of butter

Butter almost only provides saturated fat and is therefore not the best nutrition for your heart. It is therefore best to reduce this a bit. For example, you can use olive oil or other oils for baking.

Don’t want to use butter on bread , but don’t like margarine either? Then you can get a little more creative with alternatives! Mashed avocado and peanut butter can be eaten together with all kinds of other toppings, but they contain much more unsaturated fat than butter.

6. Handful of nuts per day

You undoubtedly know the well-known advice to eat 25 grams of nuts a day . This is also an excellent rule of thumb to prevent cardiovascular disease! In addition to important vitamins and minerals , nuts are also rich in unsaturated fat and proteins. And if you eat the nuts in place of other unhealthy snacks , you get double the benefit.

Whole grains instead of white grains

The less fast carbohydrates you eat, the lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Therefore, whole grains reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. So it is better to choose wholemeal bread than white bread; the same also applies to wholemeal pasta, brown rice and other wholemeal varieties

8. Vegetables and fruits

Research shows that fruit and vegetables reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is probably due to a combination of different substances, including antioxidants and other phytonutrients. So try to include some fruit or vegetables in all meals, and don’t hesitate to snack with them in between!

9. Filter coffee instead of unfiltered coffee

Unfiltered coffee contains cafestol, which increases your cholesterol. If you brew your coffee with a filter, that dust is largely filtered out, so there is no problem. However, it is better not to overuse cafetieres and cooking coffee.

By choosing healthy foods for your heart as much as possible, you can prevent cardiovascular disease or at least reduce the risk. Do you have any tips or additions? Then feel free to comment.

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