Years of unhealthy eating taking a toll on your waistline? Dreading visits to the doctors because of the alarming medical reports?
In this part of the world, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is quickly gaining. According to the latest statistics by the Dubai Health Authority, the heart is under stress. CVD is the leading cause of death in Dubai with one in five deaths attributable to the disease.
“The reason heart disease is so prevalent in the Arabian peninsula is because of genetic predisposition and lifestyle factors. These coupled together give rise to diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol that accelerate the development of heart ailments,” Dr Klaus T. Kallmayer of the German Heart Centre in Dubai said. “Arabs are more likely to develop heart disease ten years earlier than westerners. This is because the bodies of a generation accustomed to the desert lifestyle are now exposed to large amounts of calories and fast foods, thereby leading to obesity — which is a major risk factor for heart disease. It will take generations – hundreds or even thousands of years — for these bodies to change.”
Ahlaam Ali, lifestyle and nutrition consultant at Powereat said every bite of heart-healthy foods — from asparagus to sweet potatoes — delivers a powerful dose of phytonutrients that avert and repair damage to cells, “which is the essence of preventing heart disease.”
Fresh produce, she added, “provide the cornerstone for a heart-healthy diet because they help wipe out free radicals in the bloodstream, protecting blood vessels”.
Kallmayer also highlighted the sedentary lifestyle of the UAE as another cause, “People do not move too much. They eat and drink with no regard to their weight. Walk into a mall and you will see overweight people waddling. Coronary heart disease is the most common heart ailment — it is the result of the build up of plaque that is cholesterol, calcium and deposits from smoking.”
It’s been said time and time again but Kallmayer reiterates exercise as being key to preventing heart disease. Mental factors such as bereavement, depression and stress are also risk factors for heart disease. He recommends yoga to attain mental and psychological wellbeing.
“People need to move — go for a brisk walk three times a week. Cardio exercises such as cycling, running and aerobics are good. Diet is important too — adhere to a simple one. Cut down on carbohydrates, it is one of the major factors for obesity. Since people in this part of the world are genetically likely to develop heart disease, it is recommended to go for a simple test to determine risk factors. Also before adopting an exercise regime, consult a heart specialist who will do an echo cardiogram or an ultrasound to assess if you suffer from genetic myopathy — thin heart walls. This is to prevent sudden cardiac arrest when you start working out.”
PERFORMER FOODS TO PROTECT YOUR HEART
Ahlaam Ali, lifestyle and nutrition consultant at Powereat, lists heart-healthy foods
1. Salmon: High in omega 3 fatty acids, you can grill the pink fish with a yummy marinade or use a chunk for a pasta or salad dish.
2. Ground flaxseed: Hide ground flaxseed in yoghurt parfaits, morning cereal, homemade muffins or cookies.
3. Oatmeal: For a hearty treat, bake a batch of oatmeal and raisin cookies. Hot oatmeal porridge topped with fresh berries for breakfast will give you a good dose of omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, folate, niacin, calcium and soluble fibre.
4. Black or kidney beans: Give soup or salad a nutrient boost by stirring in the beans, which are high in B-complex vitamins.
5. Almonds: The nuts contain vitamin E, magnesium and fibre. Mix them in low fat yoghurt, trail mix or fruit salads for snacks during the day.
6. Walnuts: Add a flavourful and nutrient-full crunch to salads, pastas, cookies, muffins and even pancakes.
7. Tuna: A good lunch option is salad greens, fresh fruit and a can of tuna. Keep some “salad spritzer” — any light dressing — handy.
8. Tofu: Thinly slice firm tofu, marinate for several hours and grill or stir fry for a meal full of potassium, magnesium and calcium.
9. Brown Rice: Microwavable brown rice is a quick and easy lunch option when coupled with some stir fried colourful vegetables.
10. Soya milk: Kick-start a long day with a soya milk smoothie or use it for your oatmeal porridge.
11. Blueberries: Beta carotene, vitamin C and calcium rich blueberries are good for trail mixes, muffins and salads.
12. Carrots: We love this alpha carotene and fibre-rich vegetable just as much as Bugs Bunny does. Sneak shredded carrots into spaghetti sauce or muffin batter.
13. Spinach: No wonder Popeye was strong — spinach is rich in magnesium and lutein, which makes for a healthy heart.
14. Broccoli: Chop the great beta carotene source into store-bought soup or dip the steamed vegetable in hummus for a light snack.
15. Sweet Potato: Microwave some sweet potato in a ziplock bag for lunch. Eat au natural or with pineapple bits.
16. Red bell peppers: Rub with olive oil and grill or oven-roast until tender — these are delicious in wraps, salads, sandwiches and rich in beta-carotene and B-complex vitamins.
17. Asparagus: Grill or steam slightly, then dress with olive oil and lemon. It’s a pretty fibre-rich side dish.
18. Oranges: Got orange juice? Check out the new nutrient-packed blends for a dose of Vitamin C.
19. Tomatoes: For a flavoursome twist, try oil-packed tomatoes in sandwiches, salads, pastas, pizzas.
20. Acorn squash: Baked squash is comfort food on a chilly day. Serve with sautéed spinach, pine nuts and raisins.
21. Cantaloupe: A fragrant ripe cantaloupe is perfect for breakfast, lunch, potluck dinners. Simply cut and enjoy.
22. Papaya: Serve papaya salsa with salmon: Mix papaya, pineapple, scallions, garlic, fresh lime juice, salt and black pepper.
23. Dark chocolate: A truffle a day lowers blood pressure, but choose 70 per cent or higher cocoa content.
24. Tea: Make sun tea. Combine a clear glass jar, several tea bags, and hours of sunshine.