Eating healthily is crucial in the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD). People’s average weight is increasing and the latter half of the 20th century saw major changes to daily diets, moving from plant-based diets to high-fat, animal-based diets.
The obesity epidemic is spreading to low- and middle-income countries as a result of new dietary habits and sedentary ways of life, fueling chronic diseases and premature mortality.
So what is a healthy diet?
- A healthy diet is low in saturated fats, salts and refined carbohydrates and high in fruit and vegetables. As well as this, eating whole grains, at least two servings of fish a week, and nuts can reduce the risk of CVD.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends individuals to:
- Limit energy intake from total fats and shift fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids.
- Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, and whole grains and nuts. Adults should consume at least 500 grams of fresh fruit and vegetables a day.
- Limit the intake of free sugars and salt (sodium) consumption from all sources. Recent guidance recommends eating less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
What counts as overweight or obese?
- Being overweight and obesity are classified by an individual’s body mass index (BMI). BMI is measured by dividing a person’s weight by their height squared in meters.
- In adults, being overweight is defined as a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2; obesity is defined as a BMI of 30.0 kg/m2 or greater.
- According to the WHO, in 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 600 million were obese.
- Once considered a problem only in high-income countries, overweight and obesity are now dramatically on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings. Obesity is an independent risk factor for CVD.
What does being overweight do to your heart?
- An overweight person may develop hypertension, type 2 diabetes and musculoskeletal disorder, putting them at high risk of CVD.
- Increased body weight leads to increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and incidence of hypertension rises. Statistics show that 58% of diabetes mellitus globally and 21% of chronic heart disease are attributable to a BMI above 21.
- Excess fat can also affect an individual’s blood pressure and blood lipid levels and interferes with their ability to use insulin effectively.
For more information on heart health and diet, visit http://www.world-heart-federation.org/
Source: World Heart Federation