Friday, February 1, 2008

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Reduces Heart Disease Risk

I was told a long time ago that it can be deadly to eat at a fish fry, complete with hush puppies and ice cream. Local wisdom found the combination of foods very bad. I was advised to eliminate the ice cream. It was explained to me that is how heart attacks occur.

Well, that was about thirty years ago. This wisdom was passed on to me from a "good ol' boy" in South Carolina, and apparently the advice was prudent.

We've learned more than ever about the role of inflammation and heart disease. When inflammation occurs in the lining of the blood vessels, it promotes the formation of plaque, leading to clots, then heart disease and heart attacks.

Studies are constantly being performed to find ways to reduce the incidence of heart disease. Dietary modification and medications are used in combination to reduce inflammation and prevent the onset and worsening of cardiovascular disease. Fish oil is recommended, cholesterol lowering medications and aspirin for this very purpose. Individual CRP levels, indicating inflammation, are measured to help determine a person's risk for heart disease: the role of inflammation is strong. We have learned much over the years about cardiovascular health.

According to a review published in the January 22 issue of The Journal of the American College of Cardiology, inflammatory foods cause immediate and significant increases in glucose and lipid (cholesterol) levels, promoting oxidative stress in the body. Even though these changes are not long lasting, the effects produce enough inflammation to do major harm and increase the risk of future heart disease. The changes seen when we eat inflammatory foods include an increased tendency for the blood to clot, dysfunction of the lining of the blood vessels (endothelial dysfunction) and stimulation of sympathetic fibers - a combination that could lead to disaster, especially in the presence of existing heart disease.

Eating fatty foods can increase your triglyceride levels - immediately. By reducing your level of triglycerides, you can cut your risk of heart disease by 40%. Exercise, combined with some specific dietary interventions can significantly counteract the effects of dietary indiscretion.

Here are some recommendations that everyone can incorporate into their lifestyle:

If you have no history of substance abuse, or religious restrictions, consider a glass of alcohol before or with your evening meal.

Keep your waist measurement 1/2 of your height through exercise and limiting caloric intake.

Perform moderate intensity activity at least thirty minutes a day.

Eat a daily salad with vinegar and olive oil. Vinegar helps you to feel full and reduces spikes in blood sugar levels.

Reduce oxidative stress and inflammation by consuming berries, dark chocolate, tea, pomegranates and red wine.

Eat nuts five times a week. They slow emptying of the stomach, and cut the impact of high glycemic foods by half. Eating nuts reduces your risk of heart disease and diabetes by 20-50%.

Consume lean protein with all meals.

Have cinnamon with a high glycemic meal; it slows down the release of glucose into the blood stream and decreases the time it takes the stomach to empty.

Avoid processed carbohydrates - include green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach and fruits such as grapefruits and cherries.

All foods should be minimally processed.

Avoid food and beverages containing corn syrup, sugar, white flour and trans fats.

Limit your portions

These dietary changes are recommended for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Further benefits are seen when you include exercise and weight loss.

Everyone should be able to follow these simple guidelines. The recommendations provided here will yield immediate and long lasting health benefits.

Ref: J Am Coll Cardiol. 2008;51:249-255 ◦