Happy Heart Health Week everybody. Since prevention is better than cure, I'm going to share a few tips to preventative diet tips this week.
1. 1 in 20 deaths is caused by a heart attack. 2. 1 person dies from a heart attack every 74 minutes = 19 Aussies p/day. 3. 1 person is hospitalised due to a heart attack every 9 minutes = 157 people p/day 4. Heart attacks are 2x more common in men than women.
I was talking to my 86 year old South African grandma recently. Given that South Africa's life expectancy is only 64, my grandma is ancient & seemingly invincible as she's survived the 1949 Durban massacre & has stayed alive through the apartheid riots, the insanity of life in one of the world's capitals for murder, car crashes & hijacking & the 2021 COVID19 onslaught that killed 10 000s. And yet my grandma is still trooping on, living in her own home: no dementia, diabetes, blood pressure issues or heart disease. She even visits "the old people" in hospital as some sort of "chaplain".
I asked her what was her secret to a long life.
Answer: "The secret to a long life is not dying young." So simple, yet meaningless if you don't know how...
She then spilled the beans on her lifestyle including:
- movement (walks up and down her driveway 12 times per day) - sleep hygiene (in bed by 9pm, up at 6am) - cognitive stimulation (reads books, the newspaper, listens to stimulating radio programs, talks to people on the phone/from her driveway everday) - emotional & spiritual support (Bible, journaling, prayer, talk time with her sons) - AND diet.
So many pearls of wisdom that I'd love to dissect. But it's her diet that I was interested in: it hasn't changed much since she was a little girl & is unexpectedly is actually nutritionally pretty sound.
Everyday she eats: porridge, rice, legumes, oily fish, Indian vegetables & leafy greens, cooked tomatoes, black tea, yoghurt, brown bread & jam, bananas (including green) & avocados (red meat/chicken only on occassion a few times a month).nce.
There is so much that I would love to assess about her diet, but her daily avocado habit is just so random: plain, sliced on bread or with a sprinkle of brown sugar scooped out by the spoonful. Every day.
We've always known avocado to be a nutritional powerhouse. But it seems to be a crucial dietary component in preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD) from a 30 year longitudinal study conducted by researchers at Harvard University according to Julie Corliss from Harvard Health Publishing. The study found those who ate at least 2+ serves per week had a 16% lower risk of CVD & a 21% lower risk of experiencing a heart attack due to coronary heart disease. A serve is about 80g (or half an avo). Co-author, Prof Frank Hu believes "this study adds to the evidence to support the benefits of healthy fat sources like avocados to help prevent cardiovascular disease. A key take-home message is to substitute avocados for less-healthy foods such as butter, cheese, & processed meats."
One of the reasons why avocados are amazing is because they contain phytosterols. While too much dietary cholesterol can clog up arteries leading to CVD, phytosterols prevent the absorption of dietary cholesterol in the small intestine, leading to excretion of cholesterol in our poop. Add to this is the high content of dietary fibre, which also helps lower cholesterol in the body, avocados have a great role to play in a healthy diet.
But here's the caveat: avocados are extremly high in energy. The aim with avo's should be to substitute it in place of foods that contain a lot of fat like butter, margarine, etc. So spead it on toast, use it as a dip, substitute for butter/mayo on a tuna & salad sandwich. Energy not used - whether that be from fats, proteins, carbohydrates or avocados will be stored in the body as adipose tissue (aka fat cells).
No doubt a avocado a week - as part of a healthy, active lifestyle with godo sleep hygiene and emotional support - can help you too, like it's been helping my grandma.
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Pacheco, L.S., Li, Y., Rimm, E.B., Manson, J.E., Sun, Q., Rexrode, K., Hu, F.B. and Guasch‐Ferré, M., 2022. Avocado Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in US Adults. Journal of the American Heart Association, 11(7), p.e024014.