How to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease with Diet with Dr Zarrin Shaikh, Cardiologist. Podcast Episode 4

A Lot of Heart Disease is Preventable

Today I want you to grasp this message! The vast majority of heart disease is preventable.

You can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease by eating a healthy diet and making good life style choices.

Dr Zarrin Shaikh, Consultant Cardiologist

Today, Dr Zarrin is talking about what to eat to prevent heart disease.

Next week she’ll tell us about lifestyle choices.

Protect Your Heart Through Diet Podcast Episode 4


World wide heart disease is the leading cause of death.

In the UK around 7 million people are living with heart disease.

Heart disease causes a quarter of all deaths.

This includes all “cardiovascular disease”.

In the UK the death rate is falling due to advances in medical technology. However, more people are getting heart disease due to life style choices.

A bowl of mixed fruits #healthyliving #healthyeating #healthylifestyle #howtobehealthy #healthylifetips #antiheartdisease #preventheartdisease #reducetheriskofheartdisease #heartdiseasediet #reverseheartdisease #heartdiseaseprevention

Patients With Heart Disease Are Getting Younger and Sicker

Dr Zarrin tells a story about a 25 year old who she treated who had had a massive heart attack due to lifestyle choices.

Lifestyle is At the Heart of Most Cardiac Morbidity

It’s time to start focusing on prevention!

Heart Attacks in Females Often Present with Non Typical Symptoms

Many women in the UK die from heart disease each year (30 000). THat’s twice as many as die from breast cancer.

Men often get typical symptoms of “crushing chest pains”.

Females often don’t get typical symptoms which can lead to delay in diagnosis. Which can lead to a worse outcome.

The symptoms can vary but include:

  • Indigestion
  • Sharp chest pain
  • Breathless and sweaty
  • Pain in back

Key Lifestyle Areas That Relate to Cardiac Health.

1. Nutrition – a traditional lifestyle area.

2. Exercise – again a key lifestyle factor.

3. Stress – not traditionally talked about but is a key factor

4. Sleep – good sleep is essential for the body’s metabolic restoration. That includes cardiac metabolic restoration.

5. Relaxation – practice of mindfulness is directly linked to better cardiac outcomes

6. Community – we are social creatures; we are born to live in communities. Social isolation increases the risk of heart disease.

Heart Disease is An Inflammatory Process

There are diets that can help to reduce inflammation in our bodies.

Key Recommendations for a Heart Healthy Diet

  1. Reduce processed foods and sugar.
  2. A whole food diet, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, lentils.
  3. Fibre. Eat 30g of fibre a day.
  4. Eat the rainbow. Lots of colourful fruit and vegetables.


The More Fibre you Eat the Less Chance of Dying You Have

A study in New Zealand showed that fibre is protective against death in general, not just death caused by heart disease.

Aim for roughly 30g of fibre a day.

Oats are 10% fibre. They also contain beta glucan which helps to reduce cholesterol

Eat a Rainbow to Avoid Heart Disease

The colours in fruits and vegetables contain anti oxidants called phytonutrients. The more variety of colours you can eat the better.

Rainbow-colored smoothies #healthyliving #healthyeating #healthylifestyle #howtobehealthy #healthylifetips #antiheartdisease #preventheartdisease #reducetheriskofheartdisease #heartdiseasediet #reverseheartdisease #heartdiseaseprevention

Omega 3, Omega 6 And Heart Disease

We need to consume both omega 3 and 6. Both of them protect us against heart disease.

However, if you have too much omega 6 it actually promotes inflammation (not good!)

Omega 6 is found in vegetable oils such as sunflower oils and processed foods.

Omega 3 is protective in all quantities so we want to make sure we have it in our diet.

The ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is important. We want less omega 6 (most people eat too much and easily reach the amount that their body needs.)

The best source of omega 3 is oily fish.

Chia seeds and linseed (the same as flaxseeds) also contain omega 3 but in much smaller quantities. (It’s also a different type of omega 3.)

Olive Oil is Protective of Heart Disease

The PREDIMED study showed that olive oil protects us against heart disease.

See Podcast Episode 2: The Health Benefits of the Med Style Diet.

Olive oil also contains omega 9. (It contains small amounts of omega 3 and 6.)

Coconut Oil Contains Saturated Fats

This is a contentious area. Coconut oil contains lots of saturated fats. Traditionally saturated fats have been associated with heart disease.

People are now questioning whether this is true.

Dr Zarrin cooks with coconut oil and says that if you eat it as part of a healthy, whole foods diet, it’s not a concern.

Some experts go further and say that coconut oil is protective against heart disease.

It is an area that needs clarifying!

A Note On Smoking Points of Olive Oil and Coconut Oil

Another complicated area!

The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil starts to smoke and break down. We don’t want to heat oils above their smoke points.

Different grades of different oils have different smoke points. Which makes it difficult for us to know exactly what the smoke point of each oil is. (Wouldn’t it be great if they put it on the bottle!)

Extra virgin is the first press of the oil. Virgin is the second press. After that the taste of the olive oil decreases. Here in Spain we call that press “suave”. Some olive oils are a blend of different oils and presses.

Smoke Points of Olive Oil and Coconut Oil

Extra virgin olive oil: 160-190 °C / 320°F-374°F

High quality extra virgin olive oil: 207°C / 405°F

Refined olive oil: 199-243°C / 390-470°F

Virgin Coconut Oil: 177° / 350°F

Refined coconut oil: 230° / 450°F

Ref: Wikipedia

Dr Orlena’s Advice if You Want to Cook with Olive Oil

Use extra virgin olive oil to eat raw in salad dressings or sprinkled on vegetables, the Mediterranean way.

Use a lower grade press to cook with. There are several reason for this. Extra virgin olive oil is the most expensive and loses it’s taste when it’s heated. Also the smoke point of the other presses are higher.

For a really high oven, 200C, such as roasting potatoes at Xmas, I would use an oil with a higher smoke point. 

A woman preparing a healthy salad #healthyliving #healthyeating #healthylifestyle #howtobehealthy #healthylifetips #antiheartdisease #preventheartdisease #reducetheriskofheartdisease #heartdiseasediet #reverseheartdisease #heartdiseaseprevention

Does Eating Gluten Have an Affect on Heart Disease

There isn’t currently any research to show a connection between gluten and heart disease.

The Big Take Home Message About Heart Disease and Nutrition

  1. Reduce processed foods and sugar.
  2. Eat a plant based diet (lots of fruit and vegetables).
  3. Eat whole foods (cooked from scratch).
  4. Eat fibre. At least 30g a day.
  5. Eat omega 3.
  6. Eat olive oil.

Dr Zarrin at LifeStyleCardiology

You can find out more about Dr Zarrin Shaikh at lifestyle cardiology. Follow her on twitter. @DrZarrinShaikh.


Written by Dr Orlena Kerek

Dr Orlena is a medical doctor turned health coach. She helps busy mums go from "I can't lose weight" to feeling fit and fabulous. Find out more about her here.


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