Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Avoiding Heart Problems

(Health opinion)
Chicharon snack, at ~19000ft (Cho Oyu ABC),
eat with caution
Just last week, a friend had an emergency angioplasty to ‘fix his broken heart’ as he puts it. This guy is an ultra-marathoner (think 100km run), a mountaineer and a long-distance cyclist. Though, he carries a bit of extra weight indicating a very healthy eating appetite. :)

The key lesson – sport or active lifestyle alone is not enough to guarantee a perfect health. I’m lucky that my blood metrics are still ok (LDL, VLDL, HDL, trigli, uric, etc. w/in normal range). I guess the key is (as we already know since grade school) – a BALANCED diet.

Over many years I’ve been interested in this subject and tried to keep a healthy lifestyle (food intake included). My dad suffered a fatal heart attack and I thought I should not repeat that same ending. Let me offer my own thoughts, opinion / tips on this topic...

1. Fitness sport is not enough – let’s fix our diet!

2. Still, let's keep a good endurance sport as part of our lifestyle. The benefit of endurance sport is that it expands our blood vessels which gives us more ‘room’ preventing immediate clogging. But note, even ‘blood pumping’ sport will NOT get rid of calcified fats (‘tartar’) – that’s done deal / unfixable. Buy new blood vessels! ;)

3. Fats are good sources of calories but KNOW what kind of fats that you intake. Of interest - some folks who avoided fats completely took more carbs and ended with high triglycerides resulting in the same problem. Or, ate more protein which increased their uric acid level – well at least it’s not a direct heart problem.

  a. Saturated Fats (mostly animal fats) when eaten and absorbed is stored as LDL (aka bad cholesterol). Cooking oils have sat-fats – the worst I think (contrary to its name) is VEGETABLE oil which has more sat-fats than unsaturated fat content. Popular Filipino food items also HAVE LOTS of bad fats – crispy pata/tenga, lechon baboy (roasted pig), sisig (pig’s face/snout/ears), lechon kawali (pork belly), inihaw na liempo, chicharon bulaklak or deep fried pig’s intestines (the best…. killer), chicharon (crispy pig’s skin), even the evil crispy chicken skin (worse than pig’s skin). Most fried food items are also cooked in ‘bad oil’ (trans-fat), think french fries. (As a quick note: LDL/VLDL when calcified (calcium-mixed) in the blood vessel, poses a clogging issue when dislodged causing a heart attack).

  b. Unsaturated (poly/mono). Sometimes with +omega. This is GOOD fats which elevates HDL (good cholesterol is responsible for ‘cleaning up’ LDL). Olive oil is one example of product that has good amount of unsat (and little sat). I use both olive oil and corn oil (latter for frying). Fishes are good sources (salmon as the favourite), as well as nuts.

c. TRANS-FAT – the evil fat. This SHOULD NEVER be taken (read your nutrients/ ingredient list at the back of the packaging). Transaturated (partially hydrogenated) fats/oils elevates LDL and lowers HDL – double bad effect. (In contrast, omega-x promotes HDL and lowers LDL). Some products claim zero trans-fat (‘per serving’), by law they can hide (declare zero) trans-fat if it’s less than 0.5gms/serving. Any ingredient item that says ‘partially hydrogenated oil’ means trans-fat presence. Beware.

4. Eating habits.

  a. Avoid margarine or butter (good that I’m intolerant to dairies). Why not use olive oil w/ little salt or vinegar as your bread dip. Peanut butter is also good (protein and unsat fats) for bread. For cooking, use olive oil! (or Canola if you tolerate GMO product i.e. genetically modified rapeseed. I stopped using this for this reason).

b. Balance! If you can’t resist the sizzling sisig, why not add a few spoons of olive oil to sort of neutralize the sat-fat content. In my fried food items – I sometimes let a few drops of olive oil over my freshly cooked meal. Even on soup meals. Nuts, fish are good sources – so eat them along with food high on sat-fats. Don’t forget vegetables – a few servings for its vitamins, for fiber and other hidden benefits!

  c. Skip the fastfood meal as MUCH AS possible (cooking oil in fastfood restos normally have trans-fat). If unavoidable – go to #b above. Here's a difficult challenge - the delicious, crispy chicken skin is just so irresistable. Initially.  Skip that!

5. Measure! Get your base. Do at least a yearly blood test (along with other check-up stuff) even twice a year if you’re at risk. Know your ‘risk area’ (LDL? Uric? Tri-gli?). Yes even if you’re just 20ish years old.

6. Learn how to cook GOOD and HEALTHY food. Sometimes, what keeps us from taking in good food is the lack of good option. Let’s not reason ‘I don’t know how to cook..’ stop the TV /Ipad/ facebook/ etc and practise.

7. Reduce some weight if you have extras. Less weight to carry means less stress for the heart (and other organs). If you smoke, STOP – you’re slowly killing yourself (and others, your family, and the environment).

8. Green tea! Scientists wondered why ‘Chinese diet’, though sometimes loaded with fats (think Hong Kong’s peking duck and roasted baby pig..Yum!) – do not translate to high heart problem occurrence amongst local eaters (not sure if this data is updated). Some concluded green tea may have played a role here. In any case – green tea is good for digestion, among other things so why not try it.

9. For religious Pinoys – an added reminder – don’t ‘pray for good health’ if you can’t fix your own or your family’s diet. Pray - ‘avoid temptation’ instead. :)

10. Lastly – if you’re a parent, kuya, uncle or playing any lead role at home, be reminded that you/we are responsible for our family’s health. It’s not an excuse to say ‘I didn’t’ know what’s good’ anymore. In a worse case scenario, you may have to pay for a family member’s surgical operation anyway (which is anywhere from 10 to 20,000USD or more); Or worse….

So, will we miss our chicharon after our first angioplasty?

Surviving a Heart Attack
Food and Eating tips

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