Do Your Part, Care For Your Heart

Do Your Part, Care For Your Heart

Do Your Part, Care For Your Heart

Dietary Recommendations and The Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

27 September 2023  | Article is written by Dr Lee Wang Loong (Chief Medical Officer, BP Healthcare)
Introduction

We live in good times – social advancements such as better literacy rates, housing conditions and cessation of wars mean that we now get to live much longer. The average life expectancy in 2022 was 72.98 years, compared to 50.09 in 1960. However, with longer life expectancy comes another set of issues – health concerns. Cardiovascular disease has surged over the past few decades globally due to evolving trends of dependency on technology and dietary choices. Deaths from cardiovascular disease jumped globally from 12.1 million in 1990 to 20.5 million in 2021, according to the World Heart Federation.

The dangerous thing about heart disease is that it may occur without warning, by which it would have been too late. Yet there is so much that we can do in terms of modifiable risk factors such as diet, physical inactivity, smoking and alcoholism. They say that prevention is better than cure and that you are what you eat! Having said that, let us look into the Dietary Guidance to Improve Cardiovascular Health, published by the American Heart Association in 2021.

Dietary Guidance to Improve Cardiovascular Health
  1. Maintain a healthy body weight
  2. – A balance between energy intake and expenditure is important

    – Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week

    – Portion control is important even for healthy food!

  3. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables from a wide variety
  4. – Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables (dark leafy greens, peaches) are preferable as they are nutrient dense

    – May consider all forms including dried, canned, frozen

  5. Choose whole grains (whole grain bread, brown rice etc)
  6. – Whole grains have endosperm, bran and germ

    – Higher fiber content, may improve laxation and gut microbiota

  7. Choose healthier sources of protein
  8. – Mostly from plants (legumes, nuts)

    – Fish and seafood – for Omega-3 fatty acids

    – Low-fat/fat free milk

    – If meat or poultry, choose lean cuts instead of processed

  9. Choose liquid plant oils
  10. – Polyunsaturated fats from plant oils (soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower, walnuts, flax seeds) preferable

    – Reduce tropical oils (coconut, palm)

    – Reduce animal fats (butter, lard)

    – Reduce partially hydrogenated fats (commercially baked goods, non dairy creamer)

  11. Choose minimally processed foods
  12. – Edible parts of plants and animals

    – Avoid ultra-processed foods such as ice cream, ham, etc

  13. Reduce sugar
  14. – Added sugars associated with elevated risk of diabetes, heart disease and excess body weight

    – Low-energy sweeteners have mixed findings with regard to the effects on body weight and metabolic outcomes

  15. Reduce salt
  16. – Excessive salt intake increases blood pressure

    – Salt reduction most effective when implemented in conjunction with the DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension)

  17. Do not start alcohol / limit intake
  18. – No more than 1 drink per day for women

    – No more than 2 drinks per day for men

  19. Adhere regardless of where food is prepared or consumed
Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acid

You may have noticed the recommendation for fish as a good source of protein due to it containing omega-3 fatty acids. What are these? Omega-3 fatty acids are “healthy fats” that may support your heart health, obtained from 2 sources:

– Fish and fish oils contain EPA and DHA
– Canola, walnut, soybean, flaxseed oils contain the less potent ALA

Over the recent years, omega-3 fatty acids have gained traction for their benefits in cardiovascular health. Studies suggest that they may decrease the risk of blood clotting, decrease triglyceride levels and decrease the progression of oily build-ups in the vessels. Fatty fish like anchovies, salmon, sardines and blue tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acid content.

It is due to this that the American Heart Association recommends an intake of at least 2 servings of fish weekly. A serving is 3 ounces cooked, or about ¾ cup of flaked fish. But an estimate of the size of your palm (or a deck of cards) is also a good approximation of the serving size.

The needs for omega-3 fatty acids may vary according to the patient population. Someone without a documented heart disease may benefit from 2 servings of fish weekly (or its supplement equivalent of EPA+DHA) whereas someone with a known heart disease or someone looking to reduce their triglyceride levels may require a much higher dosage. This needs to be done with the advice of a doctor or dietician. Of course, a food based approach is preferable, but supplements may be a suitable alternative especially in cases of high dose requirements.

Omega-3 Supplement

Our Norwegian Omega-3 supplement simplifies the process of adding omega-3 fatty acids to your daily regimen. With its high concentration of EPA+DHA, meeting your daily recommended dose has never been more straightforward.

Do your part, care for your heart´╝ü

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