Some people are notoriously known for the phrase 'meat is my vegetable', or, in German, 'Fleisch ist mein Gemüse'. They may have gotten the phrase from Heinz Strunk's novel or the film that followed, but wherever they got it, meat is my vegetable sounds good to the ear.
Men are at a higher risk for heart disease
No prejudice. No stereotype. No pun intended, but up to 80% of the time, women will almost always order a salad and will count the calories, yet men will go for their traditional 'Helles Bier', or if you may, light or lager beer accompanied by meat - or anything 'meaty'. Well, cardiovascular/heart disease is listed as the leading men's health threat, followed closely by cancer. The disease is also called atherosclerosis, meaning "hardening of the arteries". For reasons unclear, men's arteries develop atherosclerosis earlier than women's, and it is estimated that when they die from the disease it is often under the age of 65. Women catch up about six years later. Maybe it has something to do with the diet?
Cardiovascular disease is caused by disorders of the heart and blood vessels and includes coronary heart disease (heart attacks), cerebrovascular disease (stroke), raised blood pressure (hypertension), peripheral artery disease, rheumatic heart disease, congenital heart disease and heart failure. The major causes of cardiovascular disease are tobacco use, physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet and harmful use of alcohol. In cardiovascular disease, cholesterol plaques gradually block the arteries in the heart and brain. If the plaque becomes unstable, a blood clot forms, blocking the artery and causing a heart attack or stroke. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), in 2012 one in three adults worldwide has raised blood pressure - a condition that causes around half of all deaths from stroke and heart disease.
A few easy ways to help prevent heart disease
The good news is 80% of premature heart disease and stroke are preventable. Deaths from these causes could be avoided by controlling the main risk factors: tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. So, to reduce your risk of heart disease, it would be advisable to get your cholesterol checked, beginning at age 25 and every five years. If you suffer from high blood pressure or high cholesterol, work at lowering these levels. If you smoke, it may be a good idea to stop, or reduce. Tobacco smoking is estimated to cause about 10% of cardiovascular disease worldwide. Increase your physical activity level. Take more walks, do more exercises. Eat more fruits and vegetables and less saturated or trans-fats. Convincing evidence from a WHO Global Health Report suggests that saturated fat and trans-fat increase the risk of coronary heart disease and that replacement with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat reduces the risk.
Sources of trans-fat are fried foods, fast food, snack foods like chips and cookies, doughnuts and various pastries. Trans-fatty acids are also formed during the process of hydrogenation, making margarine, shortening, cooking oils and the foods made from them a major source of trans-fatty acids. Foods rich in saturated fat on the other hand, include beef, veal, lamb, pork, dairy products made from whole milk (milk, cheese, butter), poultry skin, coconut oil and palm oil (which are often found in the typical junk snack foods you already know you shouldn't be eating too often).
Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats are the two unsaturated fats. Research shows that monounsaturated fats may help lower your bad cholesterol levels when you use them in place of saturated and trans fats. This means that a diet containing a sufficient amount of monounsaturated fat may actually help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. They are found mainly in many fish, nuts, seeds and oils from plants. Some examples of foods that contain these fats include salmon, trout, herring, avocados, olives, walnuts and liquid vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, safflower, canola, olive and sunflower.
Polyunsaturated fats are the fatty acids that are "essential" to your body, and are also called "essential fatty acids" - essential, because your body requires them in order to function properly. Your body is incapable of producing essential fatty acids on its own, and this is where your diet plays a major role. Your diet should supply a sufficient amount of polyunsaturated fats or, if you may, essential fatty acids on a regular basis.
Omega-6 and Omega-3 are the essential fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acid, which is most abundant in fish (and fish oil supplements), basically improves your body's ability to build muscle, lose fat, prevent and treat diseases like osteoporosis, cancer, depression, obesity, some cancers, skin disorders, attention disorders, etc. Beans, walnuts, flax-seeds, olive oil and winter squash are also concentrated sources of omega-3 fats. If you eat fish and seafood such as salmon, halibut, tuna and scallops a few times a week you will considerably increase your omega-3 intake.
The omega-6 fatty acid is most commonly found in most vegetable oils like chia seed oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, cottonseed oil and many others. Pumpkin seeds, grape seeds and raw nuts are also good suppliers of Omega - 6. Often, a typical diet contains a considerable amounts of omega - 6. Try to keep your total fat intake between 25 and 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils.
Inasmuch as meat will still be your vegetable, it is never too late to begin working towards lowering your risk of developing heart disease. In summary, eat healthy, exercise regularly and try to keep your ideal weight. Drink in moderation, quit smoking, control your blood pressure, manage stress and anger, avoid trans-fats, improve your cholesterol levels and well, laugh a little more. Remember, laughter is medicine for the soul ... or in our case, the heart.