Monday, May 19, 2008

Heart Disease - Diet and Exercise to Live Longer

Do you want to live longer? Everyone wants to live longer. The desire for life is surely one of the most deeply rooted instincts we possess. We all want a life of usefulness and abundance, free from ill health and unhappiness. As we age we become increasingly aware of just how short life is and as Gauguin said “life is a split second”. It’s natural for us to look for ways to increase our longevity. Is it little wonder that health is the number one searched for subject on the internet?

Heart Disease Trends

The years between World War 2 and the 1960’s saw the highest recorded rates of coronary heart disease (CHD) ever measured in the western world. Dietary changes from the 1970’s to the present time have seen a decline in deaths from CHD particularly in the more well-to-do population group. Westernization of the diets in Mediterranean and Asian populations is seeing an increase in CHD from their previously low levels.

The Problem Now

The major problem facing western populations now is our expanding waistlines. In the last 5 years in the U.S. the number of people who are overweight or obese has risen 7-10%. In 2007 65% of the U.S. population is overweight and 30% are clinically obese.

How to Tackle the Problem

There are two things you can and must do to sort out this problem if you are in the high risk category or even if you just want to be more healthy.

  • You must control your diet
  • You must get active

Controlling Your Diet

Your goal needs to be to eat foods that protect you against CHD and provide you with the essential nutrients that help you optimize your length and quality of life.

Foods that help you achieve this goal are:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • legumes
  • whole grain foods
  • fish
  • nuts
  • low fat dairy products

To get results you need to substitute the following foods:

  • foods high in animal fats
  • hardened (hydrogenated) plant fats and oils
  • commercially baked products containing these fats
  • deep fried foods


  • Plant oils
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fish

These will reduce your CHD risk further.

If you already have a high risk of CHD due to being overweight, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, lack of exercise, family history or other conditions then you will need to take an even more focused approach to your daily diet to include the following:

  • 8 or more servings of fruit and vegetables
  • Large servings of whole grains
  • Frequently replace meat and whole fat dairy products with fish and/or legumes
  • Eat nuts and seeds regularly
  • Usually include low fat dairy products
  • You may or may not include small servings of lean meat.

Use the following plant oils in cooking but keep the quantites small because they are still high in calories:

  • Canola
  • Olive
  • Soy
  • Sunflower
  • Or other seed and nut oils

If you have a very high risk of CHD then your diet should be low in saturated fats. In order to achieve this you need to have a higher carbohydrate content from grains, fruits, vegetable and legumes. You should also make sure that your diet is low in refined sugar and flour products and that packaged foods you eat are high in fibre and low in saturated fat content.

These recommendations also help you achieve a healthy body weight.

Get Active

Avoiding weight gain is best achieved by eating a diet low in total energy coupled with regular physical activity. Your increased physical activity can be from exercise or from everyday activities that you include into your routine. There is strong evidence that increased physical exercise results in weight loss, decreased abdominal fat and cardio-respiratory fitness.

As logic would indicate tests support the combination of a low-fat diet plus moderate exercise as a way to produce greater weight loss than either of these actions alone.

Examples of moderate amounts of activity you can fit into your day.

  • Walking 30 mins. 3.2 km ( 2 miles)
  • Cycling 30 mins. 10-12 km
  • Swimming 20 mins.
  • Washing and polishing the car 45-60 mins
  • Washing windows or floors 45-60 mins
  • Gardening 30-45 mins

As with all exercise programs it is sensible to start slowly as this will aid your body to adapt without over taxing it which will in turn assist your ability to increase your activity levels over time.

Consult your health professional before embarking on an exercise program and build up your level of activity gradually. The more overweight and the more at risk you are; the more mandatory this latter advice becomes.

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