Heart health is a priority for many Americans, no matter their background. After all, heart disease is a leading cause of death in the USA, responsible for about one in every four deaths.
Thankfully, it may be possible to eat your way out of heart disease risk. Considered as a similar diet to the American Heart Association’s official recommendations, the Mediterranean way of eating is often touted as one of the best in the world.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease is an umbrella term for a number of cardiovascular conditions. The most common heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is when plaque builds up in your arteries, disrupting the flow of blood. Your heart, having to work harder to pump blood throughout your body, may cause chest pain or discomfort.
The Impact of Heart Disease
In addition to the psychological stress of having a serious chronic illness, your medical bills may quickly add up due to heart disease. To remedy this, some Americans choose to buy their prescription medications from pharmacy referral services like Canada Meds United, which connects Americans with licensed pharmacies in countries with lower drug prices.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a traditional way of eating that has been embraced for centuries in the Mediterranean region. It’s really a group of diets, as each country and even region has different ways of cooking and eating. Mediterranean cultures include Spain, Greece, and of course, Italy.
What makes the Mediterranean diet so healthy? Consider the following tips to eat more Mediterranean:
1. Emphasize plant-based meals. Mediterranean cultures eat plenty of fresh fruit, legumes, vegetables, and whole grains.
2. Eat less red meat and eat more fish. Red meat, eggs, and butter are not popular Mediterranean menu items. However, experts recommend eating fish and poultry at least two times a week.
3. Get your fat from olive oil. A monounsaturated fat, olive oil is considered a “healthy fat” and is the main source of fat in many Mediterranean-style dishes.
4. Keep sauces and seasoning simple. Americanized versions of Mediterranean food often consists of pasta and pizza drowned in cheese, sauce, and sodium. However, traditional Mediterranean cooking means keeping sauces sparse and using herbs and spices to add flavor.
5. Drink wine in moderation. Research suggests that a moderate amount of wine may be beneficial to heart health. However, if you don’t drink, don’t start.
For those who have already experienced a heart attack or stroke, there has even been research to suggest that combining the Mediterranean diet with statins (a medicine used to treat cardiovascular conditions) is especially effective at reducing the risk of death.
How do Mediterranean cultures eat?
The way you eat is also an important factor. In America, our days are often filled with rushed meals eaten on-the-go and alone. In Mediterranean cultures, eating is a communal, social affair that is meant to be savored.
Use dinnertime as a way to catch up with family friends, and lunchtime as a social break to bond with your colleagues on a personal level. Don’t eat in front of the TV and turn off your smartphone. Instead, try to eat slower and savor every taste. Eating slower may be better for your gut health.
What else can I do to reduce my risk of heart disease?
Eating well is not the only way to reduce your risk of heart disease. Other preventive methods include:
- Controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising, which strengthens the heart
- Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol
- Managing stress in healthy ways
- Sleeping well
Your heart is one of the most important organs in your body. Without a healthy heart, your quality of life can start to suffer. So take the first step in taking care of your heart today. Perhaps start by treating yourself to a tasty plate of spaghetti aglio e olio (spaghetti with garlic and olive oil)!