I was reviewing a lecture given by Walter Willet of Harvard University and he shared some really profound information about the power of food and lifestyle choices and disease risk. All the data shared here stems from the Nurse’s Health Studies. The Nurses’ Health Studies are among the largest and longest running investigations of factors that influence women’s health.
Researchers taking aÂ look at the information gathered over the last twenty years wanted to determine how significantly diet and activity can reduce modern diseases of our time. They chose to make their criteria fairly reasonable for the average person to follow, yet scientifically validated for disease reduction. Based on what is known, the following factors reduce heart disease and diabetes:
- A BMI of less than 25. Basically, this puts you at a reasonable weight for your height. A BMI slightly lower than this is optimal, but it was determined that it was fair to ask for Americans to strive for a BMI of 25 if they were not there already.
- Non-smokers. I needn’t explain this one.
- 30 minutes of exercise a day or more (brisk walking is a great example)
- Follow a good diet. What does this mean?
- A Low Glycemic Diet. This is a dietary lifestyle that chooses foods which do not raise blood sugar rapidly. Whole grains, lean proteins and lots of fruits and vegetables. Basically a whole foods diet with little white sugar, white flour, white rice, soda or candy.
- A diet reasonable in good fats and low in bat fats. The percentage of fat itself isn’t as important as the quality of fat. Diets high in trans fats (the kind of fat we see as “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” oils on labels) are far more lethal to the body than saturated fats found in lard, bacon, and palm oils.
- Consume fish at least twice a week – cold water fish is high in omega-3 fats, which are cardio-protective as well as brain protective!
- Meet the RDA for folate — folate reduces homocysteine levels, protecting one from heart disease.
- A diet high in fiber – conveniently, this is also found in foods which have a low glycemic lload – whole grains, fruits, and veggies. The soluble fiber in apple and oatmeal is well known to reduce heart disease. Fiber also keeps the rest of the body running smoothly, so to speak.
- Limited alcohol consumption: 1 drink every other day or less.
Of the more than 200,000 participants in the study, only 3% met this criteria. And this 3% of the studied population had an 82% less likelihood of having heart disease and 92% less risk of Type 2 Diabetes!
To give you a rough comparison of what this means, the most successful and commonly used drug family to reduce heart disease – statin drugs – reduce your risk by only 25%. And along with the reduction comes a host of nasty side effects.
It’s information like this that inspired me into this field when I was a young girl. Most of the disease that we have in this country is largely avoidable by what we choose to put upon our plate! This is the most empowering knowledge! Each of us, every day, make a vote to improve our health or promote disease with every bite on our fork.
If you or someone you love has already been diagnosed, it certainly is not to late. The human body has an amazing capacity for healing and rejuvenation when given the right nutrition. Begin changing your diet by using the steps above, many which complement and assist one another, and enlist support from your family, health professionals, and friends. All recipes on my website are heart healthy – try one tonight!
It’s never too late to choose differently.