Heart disease: Refined carbs and saturated fats among the biggest food risk factors

Dr Chris on the link between paracetamol and heart disease

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Heart disease includes conditions that narrow or block blood vessels (coronary heart disease). This can lead to a heart attack, angina and some strokes. Heart disease also covers conditions that affect your heart’s muscle, valves or cause abnormal rhythms. Diet plays a pivotal role when it comes to your risk.

Saturated fat plays a role in your cholesterol levels, with experts stressing that the most important dietary change to lower cholesterol numbers is to adjust the overall pattern of your diet.

The Harvard Health website states: “Best is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains. This helps in two ways.

“First, the more of these healthful foods you eat, the less you consume a diet high in saturated fat and highly refined carbohydrates, which both damage the cardiovascular system.

“Second, the high-fibre foods help reduce your cholesterol level by making unhealthy dietary fats harder to absorb from the gut.”

It is thought that high intakes of saturated fat increase levels of harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, while excess salt consumption raises blood pressure, both of which are well-established risk factors for coronary heart disease.

High levels of cholesterol increase the amount of fatty deposits in your blood vessels, which eventually make it more difficult for enough blood to flow through the arteries.

Eminent Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon Doctor Namal Gamage said: “Foods with high levels of fats, oil, animal source foods with high cholesterol, refined starchy foods with little fibre, too much sweet and too much salt must all be avoided.

Harvard Health Publishing says that highly refined and processed grains and carbohydrates should not be consumed if you can avoid them.

It says you should preferably eat none, or at most seven servings per week. A serving is one ounce.

It explains: “Refined or processed foods include white bread, white rice, low-fibre breakfast cereals, sweets and sugars, and other refined or processed carbohydrates.”

It says that high levels of processing remove many of the most healthful components in whole grains, such as dietary fibre, minerals, phytochemicals, and fatty acids.

Oldways Whole Grains Council explained: “All grains start life as whole grains.”

The whole grain (i.e. the seed of a plant) is made up of three edible parts:

The brain

The germ

The endosperm.

Whole grains retain all three parts of the seed – the bran, germ, and endosperm — whereas refined grains are missing one or more parts of the seed.

“White flour and white rice are refined grains,” the Oldways Whole Grains Council confirmed.

There are around 7.6 million people living with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK, according to the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Currently, the BHF says that healthcare costs relating to heart and circulatory diseases are estimated at £9billion each year.

Fortunately, the BHF states: “A healthy diet can help reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease and stop you gaining weight, reducing your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.”

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