How to Use Nutrition to Fight Heart Disease

by Jackie Wicks

Your Optimal Diet Depends on Your Risk

One of the most important points I can communicate to people about nutrition and diets in general is that there is no such thing as “one diet to rule them all”—diets need to be augmented and altered depending on circumstances. The best diets are flexible and allow for tweaks that personalize them to your unique circumstances.

The diet for CVD, detailed above, is recommended primarily for those at risk of CVD. While we might all do well to limit our consumption of saturated fat, outside of the context of CVD, it is much less harmful. Coconut oil, for example, poses little to no risk in someone without any risk of CVD and may even be “heart-healthy” by improving HDL levels. In someone with CVD, the risk is less well understood, which is why it is recommended against.

Diets like the Paleo diet and other high-fat, low-carb diets may appear to be effective means to lose weight (although when compared to other diets, they work basically the same), but they are definitely not recommended if you are at risk or already have CVD. Even if you lose weight on such a diet, you won’t lower risk as much as you could following the guidelines above.

Work with your doctor to determine what your level of risk is, and make the appropriate dietary changes. Eat tons of vegetables—no healthy diet doesn’t include them! Don’t be afraid of healthy carbohydrates, they’ll help lower your risk when consumed in whole forms. Get plenty of omega-3s, and replace high-saturated fat foods with high-mono- and polyunsaturated fat foods as frequently as possible.

Drugs may be the most common way we control CVD risk today, but it’s entirely possible to lower and even eliminate your risk simply by making healthy lifestyle changes. In fact, healthy lifestyle changes should really be the first line of defense, so take advantage of them today so you don’t need to have a serious conversation with your doctor tomorrow!

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