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Eating Pecans Promote A Healthier Heart

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that the antioxidants in pecans can lower the risk of heart disease.


Heart Disease

Heart disease is a term used to refer to a variety of health conditions that involves the heart. It is often interchanged with cardiovascular disease which is commonly used to define the condition involving the narrowing of the blood vessels that can lead to chest pains, heart attack and stroke. Unlike cancer and other chronic diseases wherein the causes remain to be unclear, the causes of heart diseases are well-established and the condition can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices.

Most diseases are caused by the damage caused by the accumulation of fatty plaques in the arteries. The arteries are responsible for carrying nutrients and oxygen to different parts of the body. In order to properly perform these tasks, the arteries need to stay strong and flexible. Aging and poor, unhealthy habits can put too much pressure in the arteries and make the walls stiff, weak and thick with fatty plaques. This disorder will lead to the insufficient distribution of blood in organs and tissues. Because of this, nutrition and oxygenation are compromised.

Atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries caused by deposition of fatty plaques, is the most common cardiovascular disease. The other heart conditions are heart arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythms, cardiomyopathy or the enlargement and thickening of the heart muscle, heart infection and valvular heart diseases.

Although heart diseases are caused by different factors, studies show that they are primarily due to unhealthy diet and habits, and lack of exercise.

The Risk Factors of Heart Disease

Getting older increases the risk of heart disease. The heart and blood vessels become more at risk of damage. Men are also more at risk of developing the disease than women although a woman’s risk is increased after menopause. Certain heart diseases are also caused by genetic factors. The condition can run in the family and some individuals can be more inclined of developing the condition than others.

Smoking has always been proven to be bad for the health. Nicotine in tobacco can constrict the blood vessels, making blood flow difficult resulting to an increase in blood pressure, while its carbon monoxide content can damage the lining and make them more at risk of damage. Population studies show that the incidence of heart disease is higher in smokers than in non-smokers.

A diet rich in sodium and harmful fats can lead to the development of heart disease. Hypertension, or chronically high blood pressure, can cause the blood vessels to become thick and hard. The accumulation of cholesterol plaques on the walls of the arteries can inhibit the healthy flow of blood and cause serious complications. The other risk factors of heart disease are obesity and diabetes – two health conditions that share similar risk factors: the lack of exercise, poor eating habits and high stress levels.

The risk factors of developing heart disease can be countered by healthy lifestyle choices. Eating the right kinds of food, for example, will supply the body with the nutrients needed to maintain a healthy heart and prevent damage. A study conducted by researchers from Loma Linda University School of Public Health found that the antioxidants in pecans can contribute in the prevention of heart disease.

Pecans Against Heart Disease

The study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that pecans contain potent antioxidants flavan-3-ol and gamma-tocopherol that helps in lowering the risk of heart disease. The researchers said that these compounds can double the amount of antioxidants in the blood plasma and inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol by more than 30 percent. Head researcher Dr Ella Haddad said that the consumption of pecans can improve the levels of antioxidants in the body and added that antioxidants are needed in order to prevent diseases like cancer and heart disease.

The researchers explained in their study that pecan is a good source of various kinds of vitamin E, especially in the form of tocopherols. This is in addition to its phenolic content which also has antioxidant properties. Formation of plaque on the surface of the blood vessels is primarily due to the high concentration of oxidized LDL cholesterol in the blood. The antioxidants in pecan can help in lowering oxidized LDL cholesterol levels by preventing oxidation. The researchers said that the bioactive content of pecans like flavan-3-ol monomers and gamma-tocopherol exhibit strong antioxidant action in vitro but it has not been established whether this is the case in the human body. The study aimed to investigate and measure the antioxidant effects of pecans after ingestion.

Blood and urine samples were taken from 16 study participants. Prior to these, they were randomly assigned three meals with pecans blended with water, whole pecans and a control meal with equivalent nutritional content. And in between each treatment was one week of washout period.  Study participants who ate meals with whole and blended pecans doubled their gamma-tocopherol blood levels after eight hours. The researchers also observed that the oxidation of LDL cholesterol was reduced by 33 percent after 3 hours. The researchers concluded that their findings are another addition to the health benefits of pecans in preventing various diseases and that the antioxidants in pecans can be absorbed and used by the body.

Natural Ways to Lower Heart Disease Risk

Eating foods rich in dietary fiber and antioxidants, low in sodium and LDL cholesterol, and regular exercise are a few of the lifestyle choices you can make in order to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Dietary fiber helps prevent the absorption of cholesterol.

A high sodium diet can make the blood thicker and increase blood pressure. It has also been linked to a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association, the recommended sodium consumption should not be greater than 2,300 milligrams or approximately 1 teaspoon a day. For those with existing heart conditions, only 1500 milligrams of sodium is recommended. Avoiding foods and processed products that are rich in sodium as well as carefully avoiding the use of condiments that are sodium-rich can help in reducing your sodium intake.

Avoid foods rich in saturated and trans fats. These foods can increase the LDL cholesterol levels in your blood which is a strong risk factor of heart disease. Regular exercise also helps in keeping the heart healthy and strong while promoting the healthy flow of blood through the blood vessels.


Sources

nutraingredients.com
disabled-world.com
mayoclinic.com
mayoclinic.com

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