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Eating Fish Provides Benefits for Heart Health
By Lily Northgate of Licensed Prescriptions (http://licensedprescriptions.
With heart disease remaining the leading cause of death within the United States, reducing our risk of developing this medical condition should be on everyone’s agenda. Although there are some predisposing factors that we can do nothing about such as increasing age, a family history of the disease and pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease, changes to diet and lifestyle can significantly reduce our risk of heart disease. In the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2010 we were all encouraged to increase our intake of seafood; fish and shellfish is a very nutritious group of foods, which can confer various health benefits, including protecting the health of our heart. Here we take a look at how eating more of the fish on offer in Fort Collins can provide benefits for heart health.
Low in fat
White fish such as catfish, cod, grouper and tilapia, as well as shellfish are low in fat and for this reason we should aim to eat them weekly. As long as we are eating well we should all be aiming to follow a low fat diet, as not only will this help to keep our waistlines trim or to lose excess weight – being overweight is an independent risk factor for heart disease – but this helps to lower cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is the fatty substance that is deposited in the walls of the arteries causing them to narrow and when this occurs people tend to feel chest pain, as the heart is unable to obtain sufficient oxygen and nutrients to beat as it should; eventually cholesterol deposits can cause the arteries leading to the heart to completely block, resulting in a heart attack. While many people are prescribed drugs to lower their cholesterol, it’s always best to implement dietary measures as well. In the past shellfish has been given bad press due to its cholesterol content and while it is true that it is a source of cholesterol, this form contributes little to our overall cholesterol level; it is more the saturated fats – which white fish and shellfish are very low in – that cause cholesterol to raise.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Oily fish such as salmon and trout, as well as calamari, crab and oysters are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. For decades consumption of these polyunsaturated fats has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and it is thought that they exert their mechanism of action through a number of avenues. A lot of people are familiar with the concept that these fats can reduce the stickiness of the blood and therefore the chance of blood clot formation, which if lodged within one of the heart’s coronary arteries would result in a heart attack. However, consumption of omega-3 fatty acids has also been shown to lower blood pressure – placing less strain on the heart – reduce levels of triglycerides – a type of fat in the blood linked to heart disease – and can help to regulate the heart’s beating. hile it is possible to obtain omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources such as green leafy vegetables, walnuts, linseeds and algae, this form of the fat is more difficult for the body to process, so fish undoubtedly
remain the best source. If you can’t manage to include an oily fish or an alternative shellfish source of these fatty acids each week, it is possible to purchase daily omega-3 supplements. However, you might be able to receive a prescribable higher dose version if your triglyceride levels are already raised, which can be purchased conveniently from a drug store or using a web-based pharmacy, providing a fast service online.
Although anything grown in the soil is potentially a source of selenium, intensive farming methods have depleted levels of this heart protective mineral; this is another reason why organically grown crops are preferable, as they are richer in certain nutrients. However, one of the best sources of selenium now is seafood, with cod, tuna and oysters being particularly rich. Selenium is an important component of enzymes that act as antioxidants – they remove damaging free radicals from the body, which is relevant to heart health, as these would otherwise damage the walls of the arteries, making them more likely to narrow.
Folate, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12 are also thought to protect against heart disease and seafood is a source of all three of these B Vitamins; they work to lower levels of homocysteine, raised levels of which have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Cod, trout and tuna provide some of the best sources of Vitamin B6, while clams, crab, rock cod and salmon are especially good sources of Vitamin B12. Although a lot of fish aren’t particularly rich in folate, catfish is an exception. While it is possible to buy preparations of B Vitamins, it is generally safer to obtain all that you need from your diet.
Including seafood at least twice each week in your diet may not be able to guarantee that your heart will remain in good shape, but it’s an easy and enjoyable step to take towards reducing your risk of heart disease. Maintaining a balanced diet – once which includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains and moderate amounts of other lean protein and low fat dairy foods – taking regular exercise, drinking in moderation and not smoking are additional measures that we can benefit from with respect to this.