Better choices reduce heart disease risk

Coronary ailments absolutely discriminate against men. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 70 percent of all sudden cardiac events occur in men, and one in three men is likely to contract heart disease. It’s among the top causes of death among men.

If you’re a man that’s not experiencing symptoms of heart disease, that doesn’t mean you’re safe. Sudden cardiac events can occur without any prior warning. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it.

Fortunately, many of the risk factors that can lead to heart disease are things that we can control. Smokers and obese men are at higher risk, so weight loss and smoking cessation are good places to start if you haven’t already.

And then there’s your diet. What you put into your body has a huge influence over heart health, and a poor diet can put you at higher risk of heart disease. But eating better doesn’t have to be unpleasant. Consider cutting the following out of your diet and replacing them with healthy alternatives:

 

Processed meats

High blood pressure is a leading indicator for heart disease, and consuming processed and packaged meats can contribute to it. Hot dogs, bacon, sausage and packaged cold cuts may be delicious, but your body is definitely not as receptive as your taste buds.

“Processed and packaged meats should be avoided because they generally contain high amounts of sodium,” said Eric Davenport, a registered dietitian with the St. Elizabeth Physicians Weight Management Center. “The high salt content adds flavor while helping to preserve the meat, but in turn can increase blood pressure.”

The Alternative: If you can’t cut the cold cuts, at least get them cut fresh at the deli to cut out the sodium, Davenport recommends. Other good alternatives include buying raw turkey, chicken and lean beef prepared in the oven or on the grill.

 

Refined carbohydrates and starches, and sugary drinks

White bread, white rice, and potatoes may seem innocent enough, but they’re known to wreak havoc on your blood sugar and put strain on your heart.

“This increased sugar in the blood can also start a buildup of plaque in the arteries,” Davenport said.

The Alternative: Whole grain pastas and breads are preferable to their bleached counterparts, and you’d also be wise to replace white rice with brown. The key here is to eat complex carbohydrates instead of their simple, refined cousins. But there’s an even better alternative.

“The best options for complex carbohydrates are vegetables such as peas and beans,” Davenport said. “These are both high in fiber and protein.”

As for the sugary drinks? You might be thinking diet soda’s the way to go. You’d be wrong.

“The sugar substitute they’re made with can still cause fat build-up in the arteries, which can eventually lead to heart attacks,” Davenport explained.

Instead of diet soda, Davenport recommends all-natural sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit. Crystal Light Pure and Natural Mio can give you the flavor you’re looking for without the risk, while Hint, Zevia and Blue Sky are good soda alternatives for people who can’t quit carbonation.

 

Saturated fat and trans fat

It’s common sense: Fatty cuts of meat and fried foods are bad for you.

“Saturated and trans fat both congeal very easily in the arteries, which can eventually lead to a complete blockage of blood and more serious complications, such as a heart attack,” Davenport said.

The Alternative: Instead of deep-fried food, try breading and baking poultry. Unfortunately, there are few direct alternatives to tasty, fatty foods like pork ribs, but when properly prepared, healthy meals can be delicious enough to stop you from missing the bad stuff.

 

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