If you are a lady who likes her carbs, you may want to think about how much white bread, pizza and rice you are eating. Foods with a high sugar content can also increase your risk of heart disease, according to the results of a new study. The good news is that eating pasta doesn’t appear to increase the risk of developing heart disease.
The research was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, and scientists have concluded that eating foods with a high glycemic index, such as white bread, cause a woman’s blood sugar to rise rapidly. The spike in blood sugar levels can damage the heart.
Men process carbohydrates in a different way, and don’t have the same health risks when they consume foods with a high glycemic index. What should you be eating for good heart health?
Start by choosing whole grains more often. Switch to 60 percent whole wheat bread and once you get used to its taste, try 100 percent whole wheat. If you like to eat cereal, read the labels to find brands made from whole grains, as opposed to the ones with a high sugar content. Buy brown rice instead of the white variety.
Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is another strategy that is good for your heart. Fruits do contain carbs, but since they are absorbed by the body less quickly than foods made with white flour, they don’t increase the risk of heart disease. Again, you can start by making some simple changes to your diet, such as eating fruit at breakfast or eating a salad at lunch or dinner more often.
You are more likely to stick with the positive changes you are making to your eating habits if you start slowly. Even making one small change at a time will pay off over the long term.
Could something as simple as taking a vitamin lower or even eliminate your risk of heart disease? The results of two research studies indicate that the answer is “Yes.”
In the first study, researchers followed 9,400 patients for a year. The participants had low Vitamin D levels at the beginning of the 12-month period. By the end of the study, 47 percent of the group who had increased their Vitamin D levels had also lowered their risk of heart disease.
The second study was much larger in scale, with 31,000 patients participating. They were divided into three groups for tracking purposes. In each of the groups, the patients who increased their levels of Vitamin D to 43 nanograms/mL of blood had lower rates for the following health conditions:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart failure
- High blood pressure
A “normal” level of Vitamin D in the blood was considered 30 nanograms/mL. Now, researchers have discovered that this level is too low. Heidi May, Ph.D., a cardiovascular clinical epidemiologist at Murray, Utah’s Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, the study’s author, stated, “Giving physicians a higher level to look for gives them one more tool in identifying patients at-risk and offering them better treatment.”
A person who is concerned about his or her Vitamin D levels can see their doctor for a blood test to measure the current level. If the results show the levels are low, Vitamin D supplements can be taken. Since Vitamin D is also known as the “Sunshine Vitamin,” increasing time spent out of doors can give the levels a boost. Sunscreen should always be worn before going outside, especially during times when the sun’s rays are at their most intense. This is between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is positioned directly overhead in the sky.
Does the amount of gray matter that a person has influence their risk of heart disease? According to the results of a study conducted by Britain’s Medical Research Council (BMRC), having a low IQ is strongly linked to heart disease. Surprisingly, the results indicate that a person’s level of intelligence is second only to smoking when it comes to risk factors for the No. 1 killer of North Americans.
The study, which was published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention, followed 1,145 men and women over a 20-year period. All of the participants are currently in their mid-fifties. According to the BMRC study, the top five risk factors for heart disease are:
- Low Income
- High Blood Pressure
- Lack of Physical Activity
These results are very interesting, to say the least. It’s possible that a person with a lower IQ may not fully understand the steps they should be taking to stay healthy. Another explanation for the results of the study is that individuals who perform better in school have better employment prospects. There is a link between income levels and overall health, with more affluent people having fewer health issues than those who have limited means.
Lack of access to health care may explain why people who have lower incomes are at higher risk for heart disease. Not all employers offer health insurance, and the cost of getting coverage may be a barrier to seeing a doctor for preventive care. Chronic stress and depression may be more common for this segment of the population. Processed foods may be less expensive for those who must stick to a strict budget at the grocery store, and consuming items that are higher in sugar, salt and fat are not the most healthy choices in our diet.
Men with certain types of heart disease who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer should think very carefully before agreeing to hormone therapy designed to shrink the tumor. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that men who take hormones to lower their testosterone levels and have brachytherapy (a procedure where radioactive seeds are placed next to cancer cells) were at a much higher risk of dying from heart disease.
The mortality rate for the 256 participants in the study who had heart disease and also underwent hormone therapy was 26.3 percent. The rate for men who skipped the hormone therapy was 11.2 percent.
Men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer have options available to them other than hormone therapy. They can consider undergoing external beam radiation or a prostatectomy instead.
We may be able to avoid thinking about the risks of heart disease as we go about our busy lives, but when a celebrity like Michael Jackson dies of a heart attack at age 50, we can’t help but be shaken by the news. For some reason, this kind of event has a bigger impact on our lives than reading about the risk factors in a newspaper, magazine or even on a blog.
Heart disease is the Number One cause of death in North America, and we can make good lifestyle decisions to lower our risk. We can’t do anything about MJ’s early exit, but we can start taking better care of ourselves, starting today.
- Get regular exercise.
- Eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
- Lower your fat intake by choosing lean protein.
- See your doctor for regular check-ups.