HEALTHY WEIGHT, HEALTHY EATING AND ACTIVE LIFESTYLE REDUCE THE RISK OF HEART DISEASE AND STROKE
Harpal S. Buttar, Ph.D., University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Developed and developing countries are facing epidemic increase in cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), obesity, diabetes mellitus, arthritis, degenerative disorders of CNS, respiratory illnesses and cancer. The burdens of premature mortality and morbidity due to heart disease and stroke are escalating worldwide. Though CVDs and obesity generally manifest in middle age and beyond, it is now recognised that risks of these diseases originate from fetal programming and are manifested in childhood and adolescence. The conventional risk factors of CVD consist of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, atherosclerosis, and hyperglycemia. Lifestyle factors including tobacco use, lack of exercise, unhealthy dietary habits, and low socioeconomic status contribute heavily to the development of obesity, diabetes and CVD in children and adults. Sugar-loaded beverages and excessively salted foods are also potential risk factors. Diets rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, olive/flaxseed/perilla oils, fish and omega-3 fatty acids, low-fat dairy products, and moderate wine consumption are linked with lower incidence of CVDs. Lifestyle modifications such as regular physical activity (about 30 min/day), restriction of caloric and sodium intake, smoking cessation and moderate alcohol consumption are recommended for improving cardiovascular health and quality of life. Ingestion of functional foods, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids assist to improve overall health beyond basic nutritional functions. Emerging evidence suggests that dietary supplements containing flavonoids, carotenoids, and antioxidants modulate gene and protein expression and thereby modify endogenous metabolic pathways and homeostasis, and consequently reduce the risk of CVD and chronic diseases multifactorial in origin. Given the scope and prevalence of CVDs, a cost effective population health strategy - 'prevention is better than cure' - would be the most appropriate model to adopt to reduce CVD-related mortality and morbidity.