Nutrition bites from Vitality Nutrition, LLC

February is Heart Awareness Month—a time in which the American Heart Association ramps up it’s awareness campaign in the fight against heart disease.  Did you know your personal lifestyle habits have a great impact on your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke during your lifetime?  It’s true!  In other words, heart disease is PREVENTABLE—through the development of good-for-you lifestyle habits such as a healthy diet, weight control, regular exercise, quality sleep, and stress management, you can significantly reduce your chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke, and more importantly, dying from it.

In the early 1980’s, Dr  Enas, a cardiologist from Chicago, launched an intense research project called “CADI (Coronary Artery Disease in Indians) Study,” to unravel the mystery of CHD in Indian Americans. CADI became the catalyst for similar studies in the US, England, India and other countries where Indians settled. These studies concluded that all immigrant South Asians share a much higher mortality and morbidity from CHD than the indigenous white population. More frightening is that this increased risk also applies to the second generation Asian Indians who have adverse risk factor profiles for CHD.

Here are some of the important facts about CHD in Indians:

  • The incidence is 2 – 4 times higher compared to other ethnic groups.
  • Earlier onset of angina or first heart attack, 5 fold higher under 40 years of age.
  • Greater severity with involvement of more coronary arteries, larger heart attacks.
  • Higher prevalence of diabetes or pre-diabetes
  • Lower prevalence of conventional risk factors like hypertension, general obesity, smoking and very high total cholesterol and LDL (low density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol). However, the LDL which Indians have, show an excess of small dense pattern that is bad for the heart.
  • Higher prevalence of newer risk factors – like Lipoprotein (a) or Lp (a), increase in triglycerides and occasionally serum homocysteine (a type of amino acid) and lower levels of HDL (high density lipoprotein or good cholesterol).
  • Majority of Indians have abdominal obesity (central or apple shaped), often nicknamed ‘killer bellies.’ Visceral fat is highly atherogenic.
  • Vegetarian Indians also show significant disease. Indian females too have almost similar rate as males.
  • Higher incidence of Metabolic syndrome (a constellation of many risk factors – Hypertension, higher fasting blood sugar, low HDL often with high triglycerides and abdominal obesity).

I’ll keep this easy.  A simple list of “do’s & don’ts” is outlined below.  It is never too early to develop heart-healthy habits!

Add more of these: 

Healthy oils: monounsaturated fats from olive, canola, peanut oils; avocado; nuts and seeds; and polyunsaturated fats, such as omega-3′s, from fatty fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil

Fruits & vegetables:  choose a variety of deep colors for maximum antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect such as sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, broccoli, tomato products, kiwi, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, apples, and red grapes

Herbs & Spices:  get anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefit from garlic, cinnamon, basil, cumin, paprika, etc.

Low-fat dairy:  choose low-fat or fat free milk and yogurt for extra potassium and calcium to help lower blood pressure

High fiber foods:  all unprocessed whole grains are healthy, but those high in soluble fiber, such as oats and barley, as well as legumes (dried beans) help lower cholesterol

Heart-healthy beverages:  green tea, coffee, coconut water, red wine

Exercise:  sustained heart-pounding activity for at least 150 minutes per week

Limit or avoid these: 

Sodium:  new guidelines suggest less than 1500 mg per day for all adults;  check labels on processed food items and avoid those with more than 400 mg sodium per serving; choose foods considered low sodium (< 140 mg per serving) or very low sodium ( < 40 mg per serving)

Saturated fat:  cut down on high fat meats, dairy products (cheese, cream, butter) and desserts

Trans fat:  avoid foods made with hydrogenated oils (processed; deep fried; baked goods)

Sugars:  liquid beverages, such as soda, lemonade, and fruit juices raise triglyceride levels; limit sweets overall

Processed foods:  packaged foods are often higher in sodium and made with refined flour

Extra pounds:  losing 10% of current body weight can lower your risk of heart disease (i.e. 20 # loss for 200 # person)

Cigarettes:  stop smoking…the best decision you can make for your heart

For a personalized heart healthy diet planning, please contact Mitali Kapila,M.Sc, M.S., R.D. Registered Dietitian/Nutrition Therapist, Owner and founder of Vitality Nutrition LLC at or 248-961-0229.  Visit for more information. From my heart to yours!  Cheers!