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Cardiac Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid | Affinity Health

How Does Your Heart Work?

Your heart is the main organ of your cardiovascular system, a network of blood vessels that pumps blood throughout your body. Despite its relatively small size (it measures about the size of your fist), it’s a dedicated and hard worker. It rhythms around 60 to 80 beats per minute, and pumps around 6.8 litres of blood per minute through the 97,000 kilometres) of blood vessels that are in the human body.


Working around the clock and continuously supplying oxygen and other nutrients to the brain and the other vital organs puts the heart at risk of several complications. A build-up of fatty plaques in your arteries or atherosclerosis can damage your blood vessels and heart. Plaque build-up causes narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmia, heart valve complications, or stroke, collectively known as “cardiovascular diseases“.


What Are Cardiovascular Diseases?

Cardiovascular diseases, CVDs for short, are the number 1 cause of death worldwide. Tragically, one in three deaths globally are a result of CVD, yet most premature heart disease and stroke are preventable.


While chest pain when exercising, palpitations, headaches, fainting episodes, difficulty seeing with one or both eyes, trouble breathing or feeling out of breath, and swelling of the feet and ankles may indicate the presence of CVDs, sometimes there are no signs or symptoms.


Preventing CVDs

Screening is a process to determine how significant your risk for CVDs is. All adults should have annual screenings of their weight and abdominal circumference and their blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol levels. Ideally, this should be combined with a consultation with your doctor to discuss other possible risk factors such as family history, age, and gender, thereby determining your overall chance of CVDs.


Read More: 5 Steps to Prevent Heart Disease


Your doctor may do several tests to determine if you have any heart abnormalities. These include:

  • An electrocardiogram or ECG (as test that uses electrodes placed on the skin to infer certain aspects of heart health)
  • An ultrasound (this provides the doctor with a picture of the heart where they can visualise the contractions of the heart muscle, function of the valves, and blood flow through the heart)
  • More specialised tests such as injecting dye into the bloodstream and using imaging to determine how blocked the heart arteries are


“The vast majority of deaths due to CVDs can be prevented through leading a healthy lifestyle, which involves eating a healthy diet, not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, and exercising,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health. “All of these healthy habits not only improve the health of our hearts but lower the risk of many other types of illnesses too.”


Eating For A Healthy Heart

The best diet for preventing CVDs is one that is high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, poultry, and vegetable oils. Avoiding salty foods and potassium-rich foods (condiments, table salt, packed meals, junk food, and take-outs), consuming less red and processed meats, avoiding refined carbohydrates (white bread, pizza dough, pasta, pastries, white flour, white rice, sweet desserts), and limiting foods high in trans-fat (margarine, fried foods, frozen foods) are great ways to protect your heart.


According to research, following a healthy dietary pattern is associated with a 31% lower risk of heart disease, a 33% lower risk of diabetes, and a 20% lower risk of stroke among people.


“At any age, adopting a healthy lifestyle can help you avoid heart disease and reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke. It’s never too late or too early to start caring for your heart,” adds Hewlett.


“Having a good health insurance plan from a reputable insurer like Affinity Health is very beneficial to your heart health. Affinity Health aims to make affordable healthcare available to all South Africans with healthcare plans designed to suit your health and financial needs. Affinity Health has designed a range of options, including Day-to-Day and Hospital plans, and also offers members annual medical tests to keep your heart happy and healthy.”


Read More: A Healthy Heart is a Happy Heart

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of health insurance, offering you a range of options at affordable rates including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, your budget, and your lifestyle. Our range of healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service at all times. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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