Fats and Heart Disease

Small changes in your eating habits and lifestyle can make a big difference in a person's health. The Mediterranean Diet is recommended to patients who suffered from a heart attack, as it has been proven to dramatically lower a person's risk of a second heart attack.

The main factor in heart diseases is atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a heart disease which occurs when fatty substances accumulate in the arterial walls and as a result lower the elasticity of the blood vessels and cause blockages. This causes a problem with a person's normal blood flow. There are a number of factors that can raise a person's chances of getting atherosclerosis: abnormal amount of fat in the blood, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, lack of physical activity, a family history of heart diseases, high level of homocysteine in the blood. A balanced diet is extremely important in order to lower the risk factors and prevent heart diseases.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a vital fatty substance found in the body. It is used in order to produce various bodily substances such as hormones, cellular membranes and bile salts. A normal level of cholesterol in the blood does not exceed 200 mg %. There are two types of cholesterol in the blood – LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). The more LDL there is in the blood, the higher the risk of atherosclerosis. A normal level of LDL in the blood is lower than 130 mg %. Diabetics or people suffering from other heart diseases should have less than 100 mg %. HDL clears away the excess cholesterol from the blood. The more HDL there is in the blood, the lower the risk of heart disease or atherosclerosis. A normal level of HDL in the blood is higher than 40 mg %. The following foods have a high content of cholesterol: eggs, butter, dairy products, fatty meats, shellfish, organs (brain, liver, spleen). These foods should be avoided. Choose fish and chicken and low-fat dairy products. One yolk has all the daily recommended cholesterol content.

Triglycerides are a type of fat which absorbed from food and produced in the liver. A high level of triglycerides in the blood raises a person's risk of heart disease. A normal level of triglycerides in the blood is less than 200 mg %. Diabetics or people who are suffering from heart disease should only have less than 150 mg %.

A person's fats profile should be periodically checked and tracked.

There are four types of fats:
  1. Saturated fats
  2. Monounsaturated fats
  3. Polyunsaturated fats
  4. Fish oil

1. Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are related to the increase of cholesterol in the blood and hypertension. In most cases, saturated fats are solid while at room temperature. Saturated fats mainly come from animals (meat or other animal by-products). Fast food is full of unsaturated fat, making it extremely important for you to make careful and smart choices when eating out. Margarine and other solid fats should be avoided, especially those that are processed. When food gets processed, another type of fat is produced – trans fat, which is also very harmful to your health.

2. Monounsaturated Fat

It is important to have monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil, olives, canola oil, avocado, sesame, almonds and peanuts. They are an important component of the Mediterranean Diet. This group of fats helps keep normal levels of HDL.

3. Polyunsaturated Fat

Polyunsaturated fats provide vital antioxidants to the body, and therefore must be included in the daily menu. However, they also have unwanted side effects and their intake should be limited (1 – 2 tablespoons). This includes soy oil, corn oil, sunflower seed oil, nuts, mayonnaise, and seeds.

4. Fish Oil

Fish oil belongs to the polyunsaturated fats group, and is also known as Omega 3 Fatty Acids. This oil can help prevent atherosclerosis and reduce the risk of heart diseases and hypertension. Fish is recommended 2-3 times a week as a substitute to meat. The recommended fish are fish from the North Sea: Salmon, mackerel, herring and more. Omega 3 fatty acids can also be found in walnuts so a serving of 3-10 walnuts can serve as a replacement to other fat servings.