The risks for coronary artery disease are classified as modifiable and non-modifiable. Examples of non-modifiable risk factors include older age, male gender and genetic predisposition for the disease. However, modifiable or preventable risk factors are those that can be adjusted in order to reduce the risk of disease.
In the case of coronary artery disease, examples of modifiable factors include high blood cholesterol, obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. Certain dietary measures can be taken to modify these risk factors by helping a person to lose weight and reduce their blood pressure, for example.
Some of the modifications that can be made to the diet to ensure it is healthy and helps reduce the risk of coronary artery disease include:
- Diet should be rich in omega 3 fatty acids and unsaturated fats. Examples of such food items include nuts and seeds, oily fish, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, olive oil, vegetable oils and avocados.
- Diet should be rich in complex carbohydrates including whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. Refined carbohydrates should be avoided and at least five portions a day of fresh fruit and vegetables are recommended.
- Alcohol intake should be low to moderate.
- Diet should contain low levels of saturated fats and red meat. Examples of foods to avoid or minimize include butter, cheese, lard, cream, coconut or palm oil, cakes, processed meats and fatty cuts of meats.
- Diet should be high in antioxidants and vitamins such as fruits and vegetables.
- Salt intake should be no more than six grams a day. An excess salt intake is directly correlated with an increased blood pressure
- The Mediterranean diet is considered to be heart healthy and typically includes fish and seafood, olive oil, whole wheat breads, plenty of fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices as well as poultry, eggs, cheese and yoghurt.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc