Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death across the globe, accounting for 18.6 million lives per year. In the year 2012, leaders of the world decided to reduce global mortality due to heart disease and other non-communicable diseases by 25% by the year 2025. Accordingly, the World Heart Federation created World Heart Day to spread awareness about heart health and inform people around the globe that cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the world’s leading cause of death. It aims to focus on educating people about the risk factors of heart disease such as an unhealthy diet and lifestyle and lack of physical inactivity. It focuses on finding solutions through actions that people worldwide can take to prevent and control heart disease and stroke. 

World Heart Day is a global campaign for people to join in. Together, we can fight against heart disease to reduce the incidence of the disease at the global level. World Heart Day encourages individuals, families, communities, and governments around the world to participate in activities to improve heart health and reduce the global burden of heart disease. 

On this day, let us take time to understand how we can avoid heart disease by making simple lifestyle choices for our health to protect ourselves and our loved.

What Does Research Say?

These risk factors can increase our chances of heart disease:

  1. Excess weight or obesity
  2. Family history of heart problems
  3. High blood pressure
  4. High levels of cholesterol in the blood
  5. A poor diet with high-fat content, low fiber, and too much processed 
  6. Lack of physical activity
  7. Alcohol and smoking
  8. Stress

Foods like red or processed meat, high-fat dairy, and trans-fat-laden foods can lead to heart disease. They can also lead to other health problems like obesity, high cholesterol, or diabetes, which can further increase the risk of heart disease. However, research shows that controlling your diet and lifestyle can help prevent heart problems. A low-fat plant-based diet can reverse heart disease. 

A 2014 study involving 198 patients investigated whether a healthy plant-based diet could reverse heart disease. Of the 177 patients who followed the diet, most patients reported a decrease in symptoms. Also, the disease was successfully reversed in 22% of patients. 

A 2019 study reviewed patients from the 1980s to 2016. The study concluded that following a healthy plant‐based diet was linked with a 19% lower risk of heart disease-related death.

Recently, two studies published in 2021 in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed how plant-based eating can benefit heart health. One study revealed that switching to a plant-based diet in young adulthood can reduce the risk of heart problems in middle age. The second study demonstrated that eating certain plant-based foods lowers cholesterol levels, which further reduces the risk of heart problems in older women.

Accordingly, avoiding meat and dairy and switching to plant-based foods is the best way to prevent and reverse the symptoms of heart problems. However, not all plant-based food is good for heart health. We must be mindful about choosing healthy plant-based foods and avoid processed food.

Plant-based Foods That Promote Heart Health

 Based on research, the most important plant-based foods to keep our hearts healthy include:

  1. Berries: Berries like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins and vitamins that protect your heart against oxidative stress and inflammation and prevent heart disease.
  2. Leafy green vegetables: Leafy green veggies such as spinach and kale are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which help protect your heart and blood vessels. They reduce blood pressure and can reduce the risk of heart disease.
  3. Seeds: Seeds like flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are great sources of nutrients that protect heart health. They contain fiber and good fats, also called omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients prevent heart disease and risk factors like blood pressure, inflammation, and high cholesterol.
  4. Nuts: Nuts like almonds and walnuts contain good fats, fiber, minerals, and other nutrients that promote heart health. Nuts also help increase good cholesterol in the body and reduce the harmful effects of bad cholesterol. Thus, they prevent heart disease. 
  5. Whole grains: Instead of having processed or refined grains, which can increase the risk of heart problems, whole grains are a great source of heart-health-boosting nutrients. Whole wheat, quinoa, barley, brown rice, oats, and buckwheat contain protective nutrients that improve heart health.

Going Plant-based

Studies have shown that there are myriad benefits to eating plant-based foods. However, switching to plant-based foods is especially beneficial to improve your heart health and preventing heart disease. So, this World Heart Day, make a conscious choice not just for your health but also for our planet’s health. Including healthy plant-based foods that boost heart health in your diet can improve your condition and help you lead a long, healthy life.