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MIAMI.- People with any type of cardiovascular disease can see improvements in their health if they refrain from the excessive consumption of saturated fats and carbohydrates.

This calls for a change in eating habits, increasing consumption of proteins, fruits and vegetables, which helps to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels while helping to keep blood vessels clear, to ensure proper circulation.

Dr. Susana Blanco, who is also the Secretary of the Venezuelan Association of Cardiology, explained that saturated fats generate arteriosclerosis; that is, they clog the arteries, the most common consequence of this being myocardial infarction.

"People believe that avoiding fats is enough, and that is not so. An unbalanced, carbohydrate-rich diet, with excess flour and sugar, is extremely detrimental and exposes the adult patient to Type-2 diabetes."

The specialist indicates that the body converts carbohydrates, like those in flours and sugars, into glucose, which is a source of energy for proper cellular activity, ensuring heartbeat, among other functions.

An excess of glucose in the blood, however, prevents the body from assimilating the substance. Thus, maintaining high glycemic levels generates insulin resistance, which, over time, produces diabetes.

Dr. Blanco stresses that in another chemical process the body transforms sugars into triglycerides, or reserve fats, which threatens the heart, and allows for greater risk of obesity and diabetes.

Resist temptations

The expert explains that the key is a healthy lifestyle based on a greater consumption of proteins, fruits and vegetables. Vegetables provide fiber, vitamins, minerals and water, do not contain cholesterol, and they are low in calories. Proteins, meanwhile, are a source of amino acids, responsible for the composition of the muscles, cells and tissues of the body.

The Nutritional Council recommends reducing the consumption of oil, butter, lard and dairy products with abundant lipids, such as yellow cheese. Also, according to experts, the consumption of pasta, rice, grains, flours, biscuits, white bread and processed sweets should be reduced.

The substitutes for those foods are defatted or lean meats, such as poultry and blue fish; white cheeses; and rye bread, among others.

The options from the plant kingdom for a heart-friendly diet are many and varied, but moderation must be exercised with those containing starch, such as potatoes and corn.

Low-calorie sweeteners give foods a sweet touch, avoiding the use of white or brown sugar, while fruits and certain vegetables constitute natural sweeteners.

The doctor advises patients to curb their intake of sweets, candy, soda and food cooked in oil. Also, patients with heart conditions are encouraged to reduce their consumption of pork, and all of its by-products, and fatty or non-lean meats, as well as processed ones, like hamburgers or sausages, as they are very harmful to the heart.

"We no longer operate based on the premise that patients with cardiovascular diseases should cut out salt completely, but that they should exercise moderation, and avoid seasonings and dressings, because they contain very high levels of this substance", Blanco added.

She indicates that vitamin supplements are no replacement for a suitable diet, especially in children and the elderly. Therefore, the nutritional advice to consume proteins, fruits and legumes every day must be followed.

"The amount of food should be indicated by a nutritionist, who, to calculate portions takes into consideration the type of disease, and each patient's weight, abdominal circumference, and socioeconomic status. However, the recommendation is not to consume more than 2,000 calories per day."

Prevention: a crucial step

It is vital that the sick comply with the medications their specialists prescribe, along with following a good diet. The change in habits will depend on the degree of heart damage. If the cardiovascular disease is not severe, nutritional advice is vital to the patient's prognosis.

This adaptation also entails avoiding the dangers posed by a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking, and excessive alcohol, which irritates the cardiac cells and affects the metabolic process of the liver. In parallel, blood pressure and blood sugar levels should be kept under control in cases of hypertension and diabetes, respectively.

Susana Blanco says that these tips also apply to healthy people, as it helps them to prevent contracting cardiovascular disease. She also stresses the benefits of aerobic exercise for 20 or 30 minutes per day.

Alarming figures

The figures published by World Health Organization figures published in May of 2017 were alarming: in 2015 17.7 million people died of cardiovascular diseases, while in 2012 the figure was 17.5 million. In both years, these numbers represented 31% of all deaths globally.

In the United States, there were 801,000 deaths in 2017, representing one in three due to these types of conditions, according to a report by the American Heart Association. Another revelation is that 2,200 Americans died per day; that is, one death every 40 seconds.

"Some 92.1 million Americans live with some type of cardiovascular disease, or the aftermath of a stroke. It is estimated that the direct and indirect costs of cardiovascular diseases and strokes affect more than $316 billion, which includes health expenses and lost productivity," this association explained.

The Association also states that about 50% of African-American adults have cardiovascular disease; of that total, 47.7% are women and 46% are men.

In this country, ischemic heart disease is responsible for 45.1% of deaths; 16.5% is attributed to strokes; 8.5%, heart failure; 9.1%, high blood pressure; and 3.2%, arterial diseases and other conditions.

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