According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 80 million Americans are affected by some type of cardiovascular disease. However, there are positive steps those affected by heart disease can take in order to improve their health condition.
Reduce and Replace fats
Multiple studies show that reducing intake of saturated fats and trans fats in your diet and replacing them with good fats can have positive effects on cholesterol and vascular or circulatory health – both significant risk factors for heart disease. Additionally, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats may be associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Dietary guidelines from Health Canada encourage consumers to choose foods with unsaturated fat as part of a balanced, heart-healthy diet.
A recent review from the Cochrane Database showed that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats proved to be beneficial. The review analyzed results from 48 research studies, and the results suggest that modifying fat intake by increasing unsaturated fats and reducing saturated fats (but not just reducing fat intake alone) can reduce the risk of cardiovascular events – such as heart attack and stroke – by 14 percent. These results were not seen when saturated fat was replaced with carbohydrates. Furthermore, benefits seem to be best when the patients adhere to the new fat intake for at least two years, and those who are already at risk for cardiovascular disease may benefit the most.
The Dietary Guidelines indicate that over 70 percent of Americans consume too much saturated fat. The most recent guidelines recommend consuming less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids, avoid trans fats and replace them with good fats.
A diet high in unsaturated fat helps reduce heart disease and stroke by reducing both total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglyceride (fat in the blood) levels. Omega-9 fatty acids have been shown to increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol and decrease LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, thus helping to eliminate plaque buildup in the arteries, which may cause heart attack or stroke.
A scientific review revealed there is strong evidence that replacing carbohydrate intake with unsaturated fats can have positive effects on blood cholesterol levels and other cardiovascular risk factors. The results of the research suggest replacing carbohydrates with monounsaturated fats increases HDL (good) cholesterol while replacing carbohydrates with polyunsaturated fats both increases good cholesterol and decreases bad cholesterol.
Overall, unsaturated fats have positive effects on cholesterol, whereas saturated and trans fats negatively impact cholesterol levels and increase risks for heart disease.
Protect Your Arteries
Replacing trans and saturated fats with omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 has been shown to prevent atherosclerosis or “hardening of the arteries.” Think of saturated or trans fats as solids that can eventually clog your arteries, which keeps the blood from flowing properly. Omega-9 fatty acids, commonly referred to as monounsaturated fats, have been associated with important health benefits.
Research has shown that omega-9 fatty acids are protective against metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease risk factors. A review paper published in Lipids journal substantiated the cardioprotective value of omega-9 fatty acids. According to the review findings, increasing the consumption of omega-9 fatty acids, specifically as a substitute for saturated fat, provides beneficial health implications for cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and overall health.