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Keep your heart healthy

Keep your heart healthy
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The number one killer in Australia is coronary heart disease: According to the ABS, it accounts for 10.8% of all deaths. Coronary heart disease is caused by clogged arteries. These blood vessels can be blocked by fatty plaque that contains calcium, cholesterol, and other substances that circulate in the blood. “There is no one magic food that acts like Drano and cleans out the accumulated plaque,” says cardiologist Dr Florian Rader. “But good habits can help slow down that process, and maintaining a healthy weight and diet is one factor you can control to a great degree. And,” he says, “It’s never too late to start.”

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Oats

Oats
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Here’s a step forward in helping your arteries: It’s been more than 20 years since we’ve known about the heart-healthy claims for these whole grains, and research keeps uncovering new benefits. The main one, says dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table, is their rich supply of soluble fibre, which has been shown to lower bad LDL cholesterol levels. Why that’s good for your arteries, according to Dr Rader: “Cholesterol can seep into the inner layer of blood vessels and form plaque over time.” Since many of us fall chronically short on fibre, the four grams per cup that oats deliver are a welcome addition.

Beans

Beans
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A great source of soluble fibre – black beans have three times as much of it per cup as oats. Another perk: Antioxidants, which are especially abundant in colourful varieties such as black beans and red kidney beans, may fight inflammation that contributes to heart disease.

Lentils

Lentils
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These protein-packed discs come from the same legume family as beans, which means that they pack many similar benefits. Preliminary research in rats found that lentils appear to reverse the damage to blood vessels caused by high blood pressure. Plus, lentils are at the top of the food spectrum for protein and fibre content, with very little fat, and contain calcium, potassium and magnesium – all minerals that can help lower blood pressure.

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Fish

Fish
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A lot of the research on omega-3 fatty acids focuses on brain health, but these potent anti-inflammatories have benefits for your ticker, too. Research links inflammation inside your body to a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including plaque buildup, says Dr Rader. So there’s speculation that reducing inflammation might reduce plaque in your arteries. Eating fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel is one way to get your fill of omega-3s, so try to eat some at least twice a week, says Taub-Dix.

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Avocados

Avocados
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Fat of any kind used to be at the top of the list of things that are bad for your heart. Not anymore: Research reveals that mono- and polyunsaturated fats, like those found in avocados, are heart-healthy because they help lower bad LDL cholesterol and raise good HDL cholesterol, says Taub-Dix.

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Pistachios

Pistachios
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Nuts are another good source of heart-healthy fats, and pistachios have this bonus: They’re filled with plant sterols, the same substances in cholesterol-lowering products that help block cholesterol absorption in your gut, says dietitian Karen Ansel, RD, author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging: Stay Younger, Live Longer. If you’re allergic to nuts, you can also get plant sterols from sesame seeds.

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Turmeric

Turmeric
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In recent years, more people have started recognising the health-boosting properties of this brilliant yellow spice traditionally used in Indian cuisine. A substance in the spice, curcumin, is an antioxidant that may help prevent fatty deposits from building up and blocking arteries, Ansel says. If you’re not a huge fan of curry, try a golden latte made with the spice.

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Broccoli

Broccoli
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Scientists have known for years that cruciferous veggies like broccoli have cancer-fighting abilities, but researchers are also examining broccoli’s role in heart health. There’s evidence that a compound in it called sulforaphane may assist the body’s natural defences against arterial clogs by activating a certain kind of protein, says Ansel. Broccoli also has fibre and anti-inflammatory properties.

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Asparagus

Asparagus
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Another green giant as far as heart health goes, these fibrous stalks are rich in quercetin, a phytonutrient that prevents plaque from sticking to your arteries. “Whether you have a family history of heart disease or are simply trying to prevent it, asparagus should be at the top of your shopping list,” Ansel says.

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Dear readers,
Please be advised that our shipment of the June issue of Reader’s Digest Asia in Hong Kong has been delayed by approximately seven days. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Kind regards, Reader’s Digest Editors