6 Foods That Fight Heart Disease

By Sylvia Booth Hubbard
– Wednesday, April 21, 2010 8:18 AM
– © 2010 Newsmax. All rights reserved

Keeping your heart in tiptop shape doesn’t necessarily mean popping a cholesterol-lowering statin tablet each day. One strategy, like eating foods that have been proven to fight heart disease, is prescription-free and delicious, and can keep your heart healthy without risky side effects.

Chocolate. One study found that heart attack survivors who ate chocolate two or more times a week slashed their risk of dying from heart disease by threefold. German researchers found that eating only one square of dark chocolate a week lowered the risk of heart attack and stroke by 39 percent. Other studies have also found that chocolate lowers blood pressure and improves blood flow. The high levels of antioxidants in chocolate seem to be the most likely candidates for chocolate’s heart-healthy benefits.

Alcohol. Evidence is mounting that moderate drinking helps reduce the risk of heart disease. (Moderate drinking is defined as three to seven drinks each week for women and three to 14 drinks weekly for men.) A recent study found that moderate drinking lowered the risk of cardiovascular death by 38 percent. Light drinkers (men or women who had three or fewer drinks a week) lowered their risk by 31 percent.

Fish. Fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have shown decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats. They also lower blood pressure, decrease triglyceride levels, and slow the growth of atherosclerotic plaque. A recent study from the University of Athens in Greece found that eating fish once or twice a week helps preserve heart function in those patients who suffer from heart failure. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fatty fish each week.

Tea. A British study found that drinking one cup of tea each day could cut the risk of heart attack almost in half. In addition, a Greek study found that green tea dilated arteries in the heart and allowed blood to flow more freely, which may help protect from blood clots. But skip the milk: A German study found that although tea without milk prevents cardiovascular disease, adding milk counteracts the heart-healthy benefits.

Nuts. Many studies have shown that nuts lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, reduce the risk of developing blood clots, and improve the lining of arteries. Almost every type of nut is healthy, says the Mayo Clinic, but walnuts have been studied many times and have been found to contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. A daily handful of almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, or macadamia nuts are also healthy.

Cranberries. Researchers at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania found that drinking three glasses of cranberry juice daily for a month significantly raised HDL (“good”) cholesterol by 10 percent and lowered the risk of heart disease by 40 percent. Cranberries may even help those with genes for high cholesterol. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine found that cranberry powder lowered the cholesterol levels of pigs born with a genetic predisposition for high cholesterol. Within six months, their cholesterol levels were less than other pigs born with the genetic defect but not given cranberry powder, as well as the levels of pigs born with normal cholesterol levels that weren’t given cranberry.

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