Reader Q&A: What is the best diet for Heart Health?

Should I follow the DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet for heart health?

 

No one likes to see the facts in black and white. They scare us, they make us feel guilty, maybe we’ve heard them so many times already and don’t find them shocking anymore. Maybe we feel helpless to change. Or are happy enough to tell ourselves that this will be a project for next year, not now.

Let’s take a moment to let this sink in.

8 in 10 cases of premature heart disease and stroke are PREVENTABLE through healthy lifestyle behaviours

Let’s look at that again.

80% of cases are preventable by taking steps that not only help your heart but help you life a fuller life in your day-to-day

These are some shocking numbers from the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation.

 

But numbers and statistics don’t inspire us to change. It’s the first-hand (and possibly second-hand) experiences that are the greatest teachers.

It takes me back to what I find myself saying over and again. Most people know this. I don’t need to tell you to take care of your heart. Even if you didn’t know the exact numbers, you know people who’ve had problems – heart attacks, strokes, etc. Maybe you’ve even had one yourself. Maybe you’ve noticed these are often the people use their scare as a kick in the butt. Sometimes it’s enough to change, sometimes life happens again and autopilot takes back over.

Unfortunately it goes that way for many health-related things. Preventing health issues does not get the focus that restoring health gets. But more on this another day.

 

40% of Heart Healthy lifestyle tips relate to Nutrition

There are some really easy ways to help you live well in your day-to-day. And the bonus is that they also help to protect and preserve the health you have now. Not only for heart health, but across many parts of your overall well-being.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation gives these 5 main tips for living a healthy lifestyle:

  1. Eat Well
  2. Get Moving
  3. Maintain a Healthy Weight
  4. Stop Smoking
  5. Manage Stress

Notice that 2 of these tips relate to nutrition.

 

My main tips about Eating for Heart Health:

Less
-Salt (sodium)
-Saturated and trans fats

More
-Fruits and Vegetables
-Fibre and whole grains
-Plant-based proteins (beans, lentils, nuts, etc)

 

So which diet do I recommend?

There are a couple of different eating patterns that can help guide you, including the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet. The most important thing is not necessarily the actual diet you’re following … it’s the do-ability.

Consistency is key when it comes to any change you’re planning to make.

The biggest struggle I hear from clients after getting the plan actually set up is about sticking to it. What starts out as motivation can turn into hassle, frustration, anger about having to do things differently than how you’ve always just done them. These are pivotal points for getting help from the people around you.

Find your support system. Set your goals. Keep them front and centre. Learn from your setbacks and move on.

Do it every day. Do it again. And. Again.

 

Other factors to consider

Nutrition plays a key role of course … but not the only role in many health conditions and heart diseases are not different. Aside from eating well, other factors are important to consider, as we saw from the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s tips for healthy living, above.

One of these factors is Managing Stress. I say this is a combination factor that could possibly affect nutrition as well. Not only can negative and unmanaged stress damage your body and lead to high blood pressure, but it can also just make life harder in general. And when you’re not able to cope with life, eating patterns are often impacted. Meal planning or even caring about eating well might take a backseat when you’re mind and body are preoccupied with stress.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation has a tip sheet for helping you manage stress that covers a variety of simple but effective coping exercises – you can find it here.

 

Life is busy and can feel complicated at times. Making changes can feel hard when we’re not clear about what the path looks like! Angela provides a step-by-step approach to lead you from discouragement or uncertainty to feeling confident and ready to take control of your eating. To take control of your journey, helping you preserve and protect your health before a health problem forces you to make changes.

If you find yourself wishing you had some help putting it all together and sticking to it, consider chatting with Angela to find out more about how working with a Dietitian can help you get there.

Reserving your FREE chat is a simple 3 step process:

1) click here to go to my calendar 2) find the best time for you and reserve your spot by providing your name and contact info 3) watch your email for the link to our video meeting. You’ll receive a reminder 2 days before our meeting. At the time of our scheduled meeting, just click on the link in your email and I’ll meet you there!

 

Other articles you might find interesting:
The DASH Eating Plan for High Blood Pressure