Ever heard that someone slumped and died? Over 93.7 percent of sudden and unexpected deaths (SUD) in Nigeria are identified as due to heart attack or stroke from research findings in major teaching hospitals. The researchers also found that more males than females, at a ratio of 2:1, are affected, and the average age of the victims is 47.3 years. Heart attack (myocardial infarction) occurs when the heart literarily slows down or abruptly stops working due to lack of oxygen. This happens when the artery responsible for carrying oxygenated blood to the heart is blocked by fatty plaques (in the case of stroke, the artery linking the brain is blocked) leading to death of heart tissues. The following foods are associated with high blood cholesterol and increased risk of blockage in arteries (atherosclerosis) which may result in heart attack:
1. Processed meats
If you are a great fan of sausages, hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats, you may have to reduce your intake as these are known for their high saturated fat content which increases the blood cholesterol. It is recommended that you don’t exceed at most 2 servings of processed meat per week ( 1 serving size is about 2-3 /60-90g ounce of meat).
2. Fried foods
Reducing your intake of fried foods can save your heart! Frying foods increases your fat intake. Have in mind that 1 g of fat gives 9kcal and just one tablespoon of oil contain up to 120kcal. The more oil you take in, the higher the risk of obesity which is associated with heart diseases. Choose healthier cooking options such as poaching, steaming, grilling or even stir frying.
3. High salt intake
Eating salted foods such as crackers, salted nut and some packaged foods high in sodium can increase your blood pressure and contribute to the risk of a heart attack. Watch out for the sodium content of foods when shopping and tone down your intake of seasonings that are high in Monosodium glutamate (MSG).
4. Refined grains
Processed foods such as white rice, refined flours, low fiber cereals, and white bread are simple carbs and are easily converted to glucose and fat increasing the risk of obesity and causing blood sugar spikes in individuals with Type 2 Diabetes. Should you avoid these foods totally? No, but limit intake especially if you are struggling with achieving a healthy body weight. Replace these with whole grains such as oat, wheat, millet, couscous or brown rice, these have their dietary fiber and phytochemicals intact, help to curb appetite, lower weight gain over a period of time, improve blood vessel function and lower risk of blood pressure and cholesterol.
5. Sugary baked foods and sugary drinks
Most sugary foods and drinks are just ‘empty calories’, this means that they give no significant nutrients aside sugar and fat. Empty calories are a sure way of adding weight especially if you have very low physical activity. Taking these on a regular basis are as bad as taking refined foods as it will increase your risk of high blood cholesterol.
6. Unhealthy fats
All fats are not created equal! Unhealthy fats mostly expressed as saturated fats and trans-fat can wreak your heart if taken in excess, these are found in butter, creams and dressings, coconut oil, and hydrogenated margarines. Replace these with healthy fats such olive oil, canola oil, nuts, avocado and fatty fish, these are known for increasing the ‘good cholesterol’ (High density lipoprotein) in the body and improving heart health.
7. Excess alcohol intake
If you drink alcohol, have no more than two standard drinks (for men) and one standard drink (for women) on any one day. A standard drink is 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of beer, 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine or 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of 80-proof distilled spirits. A high alcohol intake increases blood pressure and can increase triglycerides in the blood and overtime increases the risk of heart diseases.
Limiting the intake of these 7 foods to occasions will improve your heart health and reduce your risk of heart attack. And yes, your heart will thank you for it!