The role of diet is crucial in the development and prevention of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Diet is a key modifiable risk factor for CVD.
Change in eating habits
The average weight of humans is increasing. In the second half of the 20th century there were major changes in daily diets, from plant-based diets to high-fat animal-based diets.
The obesity epidemic is spreading to low- and middle-income countries as a result of new eating habits and sedentary lifestyles, which fuel chronic disease and premature mortality.
Components of a healthy diet
A healthy diet should be low in saturated fat, salt, and carbohydrates, and high in fruits and vegetables. Also, eating whole grains, at least two servings of fish a week, and nuts can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that individuals:
Limit fat intake and shift fat intake from saturated fat to unsaturated fat and toward eliminating trans fat.
Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, and whole grains and nuts. Adults should consume at least 500g of fresh fruits and vegetables per day.
Limit intake of free sugars and intake of salt (sodium) from all sources. A recent guideline recommends eating less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day
Overweight and obesity
Overweight and obesity are classified according to the individual’s body mass index (BMI). The BMI is measured by dividing a person’s weight by their height squared in meters. In adults, overweight is defined as a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2; obesity is defined as a BMI of 30.0 kg/m2 or higher.
Impact of Obesity on Heart Health
Obesity is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. An overweight person can develop hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and musculoskeletal disorders.
Increased body weight leads to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and the incidence of hypertension increases. Statistics show that 58% of diabetes mellitus worldwide and 21% of chronic heart disease are attributable to a BMI greater than 21%.
Excess fat can also affect a person’s blood pressure and blood lipid levels, interfering with their ability to use insulin effectively.