The heart's friends

By Kathy M. Villalon

Here’s a piece of good news. “We are living longer. The death rate caused by cardiovascular disease is falling,” said Dr. Leo Malunes, Thoracic and Cardiovascular surgeon of The Great Saviour Hospital-The Medical City during his presentation at SM City Iloilo recently.
“However, heart disease is still the number one killer that affects mostly young and middle-aged persons,” he added.

“In order to avoid heart disease, you have to know your enemies. They are smoking, high cholesterol, sedentary lifestyle and obesity, among others. Heart disease can also be hereditary,” Malunes said.

The heart has ‘unlikely friends’. Malunes said that it is best to make these a part of our diet in order to protect our heart from diseases. They are as follows:

“Dark chocolate raises our HDL, improves insulin sensitivity, lowers blood pressure and improves blood vessel reactivity because it is rich in flavonoids,” Dr. Malunes said.
On the other hand, white chocolate is not good for the heart. It contains milk, which makes it impossible for the body to absorb the antioxidants contained in the chocolate, he said.
But, this is not reason enough to go on binge eating of dark chocolate. “Every thing that is not taken into moderation is bad,” Dr. Malunes said.

Another friend for one’s heart is red wine. “Drink 25 grams of red wine a day and you will lower your chances of having heart disease,” Dr. Malunes said.
Since red wine is derived from grapes, it contains antioxidants called polyphenols, specifically a substance called resveratrol, that protects the lining of the heart’s blood vessels.
Red wine also increases the levels of good cholesterol, thus protecting the heart from artery damage.
Dr. Malunes warned that although this is good news, it does not mean that you have to go on binge drinking because alcohol, which is contained in red wine, has many harmful effects on the body.

“Olive oil increases HDL or good cholesterol and controls the LDL or bad cholesterol levels. It reduces oxidative stress,” said Dr. Malunes.
Olive oil is derived from olives. It is the only oil that we can consume as it is.
Considered as a healing fat, it has a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidative substances. Consuming about two tablespoons of olive oil, specifically virgin olive oil, every day for one week is ideal for the body.

“Green tea decreases one’s risk for cardiovascular diseases,” Dr. Malunes said. Green tea’s antioxidants called catechins are dilators. They improve the flexibility of blood vessels, thus, preventing clogging. They also lower bad cholesterol levels.
“However, you have to take green tea in its natural form – the leaves,” Dr. Malunes warned. Green tea’s leaves are just withered and steamed, thus its catechins are more concentrated. On the other hand, black and oolong teas are fermented, thus they have less antioxidants.

“Nuts are good for the heart. They are naturally dense, most especially cashew nuts,” Dr. Malunes said. Although cashew nuts have a high fat content, it is good fat. This is because of the agreeable ratio of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It contains phytosterols, tocopherols and sqaulene, which lower the risk of heart disease. It also has magnesium, which protects against high blood pressure; and copper that helps the body utilize iron and eliminate free radicals.
“But just like everything else, this should be eaten in moderation,” Dr. Malunes said. “If you have too much, you’ll gain weight and end up with a heart problem.”*

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