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The entire month of February has been amazingly dedicated not only to celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans within our nation, but to raise Awareness about Heart Disease and Prevention.  Heart Disease has strongly pierce my inner soul as it has claimed the life of one so near and dear to me, as I am sure it has touched many of you in the same way.  Yet “Still” it remains the leading cause of death in our nation.  “Awareness” – many of us are quite aware of its devastating effects.  However, I would like to take a serious look at Prevention as AHA evidence based data reports Heart Disease is “preventable” by successfully making the following life style changes:

 Maintain/Achieve a Healthy Weight
Manage Stress
Stop Smoking
Increase Physical Activity
Heart Healthy Eating 

The Matter of Heart Healthy Eating:  What is it and how can we successfully achieve this life style change?

This questioned has been explored, and researched for decades by many scientists and, researchers.  I can recall while in college hearing about a study that dated as far back as 1960 (Lyon Diet Heart Study) when a group of researchers looked at the eating patterns and life styles of the people living in the Mediterranean regions such as Greece, Crete, and Southern Italy and discovered they had a significant lower risk of Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD) then our Western population. More and more research was conducted to find out what they were doing and eating that provided this phenomenal protection of their hearts from CVD.   The answer lead them to what we refer to today as the “Mediterranean Diet.”

More currently a research study was published in N Engl J Med 2013; entitled Primary Prevention of (CVD) with a Mediterranean Diet, continues to supports the benefits of the eating patterns of the Mediterranean population for the primary prevention of CVD.

So, what exactly is a Mediterranean Diet? First and far most it is considered “Heart Healthy Eating”.  It is not a Diet per se, simply put it is just the eating patterns of the people living in Grease and Southern Italy.  The population in these areas placed emphasis on eating more fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, nuts, seeds, monounsaturated fats, and moderate alcohol consumption with a low consumption of dairy, and saturated fat intakeDoes this sound a bit familiar, how about a repeat of recommendations provided by AHA “DASH Diet”, please refer to previous article “A Heartfelt Dash to The Dash Diet.”

Mediterranean Meal Patterns have been incorporated into the American Heart Association DASH Diet to create the Heart Healthy Diet.  Here are the recommendations:

  • Choose fish at least 2 times a week in the form of cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines due to their high Omega-3 content (heart healthy oils).
  • Choose monounsaturated fats: olive and avocados also polyunsaturated fats: canola, corn, peanut, sunflower, and soy.
  • Avoid saturated and trans fats such as beef and pork and dairy fats, butter, stick margarine, shortening, partially hydrogenated oils, coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils.
  • Choose Nuts and Legumes: walnuts and almonds (heart healthy), lentils, beans all types such as blackeye peas, chick peas, pinto, navy, dried peas.
  • Choose Whole Grains: products made from whole wheat, barley, rye, buckwheat, corn, teff, quinoa, millet, amaranth, brown or wild rice, i.e. whole wheat pasta and steel cut oats
  • Consumption of alcohol in the form of wine in moderation. AHA recommends (2) drinks for men and (1) for women a day: one drink equals 12oz beer, 4oz wine, 1.5oz 80 proof, 1oz 100 proof.
  • The Mediterranean Diet does not specify a Caloric Level, nevertheless, remember, two of the Preventable for CVD is to maintain a healthy weight, and become physical active.
  • It does not specify a Sodium Level, but, do not forget, no more than 1,500 mg is recommended to control high blood pressure per DASH guidelines; and only 2,300 mg of sodium is recommended per day for people without high blood pressure to maintain a healthy heart.

When it come to the matters of the heart research has found that there is a protective heart healthy barrier found among the life styles and meal patterns of the people living in the Mediterranean region.   As we adapt our life styles to mimic these patterns it is my hope that we may also have healthy hearts and successfully travel on that momentous road of Prevention, the devastating effects of Heart Disease must stop in our lifetimes.