What is Cardiovascular Disease?

As we celebrate American Heart Month, we wanted to put together something that would help to raise awareness of heart health issues in America. While browsing through pamphlets at the doctor’s office, you’ve probably seen the term cardiovascular disease. But, what does it mean? Of course, we all know that it has something to do with heart health. Which, let’s admit, for most of us is a concept we don’t think about until we have too. However, understanding and focusing on cardiovascular health before it becomes a problem can help prevent cardiovascular disease in the future.

The term cardiovascular disease simply refers to any disease that relates to the heart (cardio) or the blood vessels (vascular). It’s pretty simple once we dissect the words. Two of the most common forms of cardiovascular disease include heart disease and stroke, a couple of terms that we’re probably all a little more familiar with. They are also two of the three top reasons for death in developed countries.

NCES Artery SectionThe good news is that healthy eating habits combined with physical activity can improve our cardiovascular health and prevent many cardiovascular diseases. As we all know, our blood is pumped throughout our bodies through blood vessels. As cardiovascular health deteriorates, plaque begins to build up on the inside of our artery’s, making it more difficult for blood to travel through the body as it needs to. This concept is demonstrated in the Artery Section (product # 4143 in the NCES catalog). As this plaque builds up, different cardiovascular diseases begin to develop, which can lead to catastrophic diagnoses and events.

The effects of cardiovascular disease are nothing to ignore. If left untreated, cardiovascular disease can leave a person paralyzed, permanently disabled and can even lead to death. If you’re interested in learning more, or need to educate others about cardiovascular disease and its long-term effects, take a minute to view our Cardiovascular Nutrition DVD. You can preview and purchase the DVD here.

We hope you’ve learned a little more about cardiovascular disease than you knew before reading this blog! At NCES, our dietitians have hand-selected products that can be used for heart health education. Click here to browse this category. To join the conversation on heart health for American Heart Month, take a minute to share this blog with your readers. Together, we can fight against cardiovascular disease in America.


Heart Health: Are Supplements the Answer?

So, you’re driving home from the doctor’s office and they’ve just informed you that you are at an increased risk of stroke due to cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol or some other heart health concern. What do you do? Do you turn to supplements? Or, do you alter your eating habits and levels of physical activity to make your heart stronger? Well, the answer may be different for each person. So, here are some tips on determining the right solution for you, or your client.

The first thing I’ll say is that, no matter what you do, you need to consider your diet and start cutting out foods that are bad for your heart and learn to incorporate heart healthy foods. Even if you decide that supplements are the right choice for you, it’s important to remember that they are exactly what their title says, “Supplements”. They are designed to supplement your healthy diet and lifestyle. Just to get you started, here are the Top 5 foods that we recommend you avoid if you’re focusing on heart health.

  1. Processed Foods (i.e.: boxed meals, snacks, etc)
  2. Fried Foods
  3. Regular Soda
  4. High fat, sugary foods (i.e.: cakes, cookies, brownies, etc)
  5. Fatty meats

Okay, so at this point, you’ve made the decision to eat healthier. Now comes the time to decide if supplements are the right choice for you. Supplements have been proven to lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL), especially Omega-3 and fish oils. So, if you’re looking to take your efforts up a notch, incorporating supplements will help you accomplish that goal. If you’re being completely proactive and working to prevent any heart related illnesses, then supplements may not be what you need.
Now that you have an idea of what you’re going for; diet change and/or supplements, it may be a good time to consult your doctor. You’ve learned the potential benefits of supplements. But, you should not doubt the professional medical opinion of a trusted physician.

Heart health is an important concern that often gets pushed off until a person is forced to face it because of a stroke or other major medical incident. Be sure to get your heart in check before it’s too late. If you’re a dietitian or physician, take advantage of every opportunity to teach your patients about heart health and how they too can have a healthy heart!


Celebrate Heart Health Month: Which Oil is best for your Heart?

As I’m sure you’re well aware of by now, February is Heart Health Month. With all of the attention given these days to having the perfect figure, many people lose sight of the fact that the ultimate goal is not only to have a trim physique but also to have a healthy body, inside and out. Heart health is often a subject that gets ignored by most people when they are only concerned about the amount of calories and/or carbohydrates a certain food has. However, Cardiovascular Disease still takes the lives of 2150 Americans each day. (heart.org) One huge contributor to cholesterol levels are oils. Whether you’re cooking a dish, making your own salad dressing or baking some sweet treats, the type of oil that you use can have a direct impact on your cholesterol levels. So, how do you know which one to choose? Here are the top 3 most common oils and how they can affect your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels.

Olive Oil: In recent years, olive oil has gained in popularity, mainly due to its heart healthy properties. Because of its mix of antioxidants, olive oil can lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol without changing your HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Coconut Oil: Although there is still a lot of research out about the exact health benefits of coconut oil, there are some general conclusions that tend to be the same across the board. As we’ve touched on in previous articles, coconut oil is becoming hugely popular (and controversial) due to its touted benefits. It appears that coconut oil does increase the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol in your body. However, it may also increase the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. So, do the pros outweigh the cons?

Vegetable/Canola Oil: Vegetable oil has long been a staple in American pantries. It’s the most commonly used cooking oil. Canola oil has only 7% saturated fat and works to lower your LDL cholesterol and raise your HDL cholesterol. That’s really a good combination.

Although there are many choices when it comes to cooking oils, it’s always important to remember that different oils will impact your overall cholesterol levels, both good and bad. An increase in total cholesterol isn’t always a bad thing. What’s important to focus on is your ratio of LDL to HDL. If you are facing a serious heart problem like cardiovascular disease or other risk of stroke, it’s important to consult a doctor about how to manage your diet. However, if you’re someone looking to get your whole body in shape, not just your outside appearance, start by paying attention to your heart health.

Are you a dietitian or educator looking to teach your patients about heart health? NCES offers a full line of heart healthy educational tools, including the “Busting the Myths about Fats: Saturated Fat” and “Busting the Myths about Fats: Monounsaturat Fat” tear pads.

heart health