Dr Edwina Raj, MS CDE RD, Head of Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics, Aster CMI Hospital, attributes the rise of heart disease and stroke in women to various changes in diet and lifestyle. Factors such as smoking, uncontrolled blood sugar levels, early menopause, obesity, high blood pressure, sedentary life, lack of physical activity, increased level of stress, anxiety due to multitasking lifestyle and history of hysterectomy or removal of uterus, are all responsible for an increased risk of heart problems in women, notes Dr Raj.
According to the doctor, women should start focusing on their health at an early stage. Gradual drop in saviour hormone estrogen can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. However, due to the drastic change in women’s lifestyle, young women succumb to heart attacks too, shares the doctor.
“Hence it is crucial to start a healthy lifestyle and practice a heart-friendly diet that aids in preventing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Women have always been considered nutritional gatekeepers of every family and therefore, it is important to change their approach towards health before it’s too late,” adds Dr Raj.
Here are some diet tips, foods and drinks to have and avoid, as per the nutritionist.
“Follow a Mediterranean style of eating”
Dr Edwina Raj recommends following a Mediterranean style of eating, which emphasizes on the adequate intake of vegetables and fruits daily, with whole grains as unpolished rice, millets, quinoa, oats, whole wheat, lentils and beans.
Furthermore, women can also include fish and skin out chicken instead of red meat lamb, beef, pork, etc.
“Add a handful of nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pistachio and oilseeds like chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and include combination of vegetable oils which are absolutely cholesterol free to strike the right balance to get your essential fats daily (zero oil diets are not recommended),” recommends the doctor.
Consider low sodium or low salted foods; check food labels while you are shopping and cut down on sodium through various sources like salted foods, adding soda/Chinese salt (monosodium glutamate) while cooking. Restrict the intake of papad, jam, jellies, sauce, taste makers and ketchups. The doctor recommends having less than one teaspoon of salt in a day.In addition, limit the intake of trans fats such as bakery goods. Check for the word trans fat, hydrogenated fat on food labels and avoid them.
Say ‘NO’ to refined foods
Limit added sugars, jaggery, sugary beverages, sodium, highly processed foods, refined carbohydrates like polished rice, maida, saturated fats, and fatty or processed meats.
Instead, have fruits, which have natural sweeteners.
Include reduced fat dairy or plant based milk daily to keep your bones strong.
Use good fats such as extra-virgin olive oil, rice bran oil, gingelly oil, nuts, sunflower seeds, olives, and avocados, which are great sources of healthy fats for your daily meals.
Potassium-rich foods and other nutrients
According to Dr Raj, potassium-rich foods help regulate blood pressure levels and keep heart muscles healthy. Having said that, include green leafy vegetables, fruits, millets and nuts to your diet regularly.
Furthermore, studies have shown the benefits of maintaining adequate levels of Vitamin B12 , other B vitamins to keep your arteries and nerves healthy. However, given that every body is different and unique, the doctor recommends visiting one’s cardiologist and registered dietician to seek personalized advice.
Homemade foods and drinks
Here are some meal recommendations by the doctor:
– Millet vegetable dosa with pumpkin seeds and dal chutney
– Sprouts, vegetable and sweet potato steamed patties
– Avocado, chia seeds and soy milk shake
– Almond flour and rava dosa with tomato, methi sprouts chutney
– Chickpea and oilseed spread with olive oil for chapathi roll/ bread spreads or salads
– Baked millet and oats with flaxseed topped cookies
– Sugarless papaya & banana smoothie with chia seeds and olive oil
– Fish and spinach stew
– Brown rice, dhal, vegetable and nuts bisibele bhath
– Mixed leafy and dal cutlet
– Whole wheat, egg and bajra pancake with coconut milk vegetable stew
– Beetroot, carrot, apple, strawberry, avocado, walnut & almond milkshake
– Soaked oat flakes with reduced fat curd, mixed oilseeds, fruit and roasted nuts