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Whole-diet approach important to reduce cardiovascular disease risk

Diet advice issued for people at risk of cardiovascular disease

Diet advice issued for people at risk of cardiovascular disease


A combination of healthy foods is more important than any single element. Picture: Alamy

Cardiovascular disease describes all forms of heart and circulatory disease, including coronary heart disease (CHD), heart failure, stroke and peripheral artery disease. Diet reduces the risk and slows the progression of many of these conditions. Dietary advice used to be related to reduction of fat, rather than categorising fat as good or bad. However, fat intake must be looked at in the context of the diet as a whole.

Replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat is beneficial, but not if it is replaced by refined carbohydrate.

Not all carbohydrates are the same. Fruits, pulses, vegetables and whole grains are carbohydrates with a beneficial effect. White starchy carbohydrates and free sugars should be avoided. Reducing salt intake is also important because this reduces blood pressure and therefore the risk of stroke and CHD.

Obesity is a risk factor for coronary vascular disease and type 2 diabetes. However, cardiac patients should ensure that when lowering their energy intake, this is not at the cost of the balance of good food groups. The whole-diet approach promotes whole foods with higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, legumes, wholegrain cereals, poultry and fish.

This results in higher intake of fibre, vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and unsaturated fats and lowering of glycaemic load, salt and saturated and trans fats. People should focus on changing more than one part of their diet. Different foods interact to provide health benefits, so a combination of healthy foods is more important than any single element.

Parker T, Taylor V (2018) Cardioprotective whole-diet advice in cardiac rehabilitation. British Journal of Cardiac Nursing. 13, 9, 428-435.

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