Vail Daily column: Adopt a heart-healthy diet | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Adopt a heart-healthy diet

I remember occasions when I was a young child when I had overheard my parents speaking about their friends who were experiencing grave health concerns. While I do not remember with vivid clarity the specifics, I do recall that the concerns centered around heart attacks and cancer. As a child, I listen with indifference. After all, what did I know and understand about mortality and the severity of such health issues?

I am now probably the age my parents were when these conversations occurred. Now, such health concerns have my full attention. I know and understand mortality. I have seen my contemporaries battle cancer and other illness and some have survived and others have not.

While at this point of my life I have only heard of a few people my age battle coronary disease, I know it is only a matter of time before that changes. According to the National Institutes of Health, "In men, the risk for coronary heart disease increases starting at age 45. In women, the risk for coronary heart disease increases starting at age 55."

Building blocks

One of the reason coronary disease runs so rampant here in America is because too many people gorge on a diet that is rich in animal proteins and fats, high in cholesterol and saturated fats, high in processed foods and low in fiber, complex carbohydrates and vegetables.

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A balanced diet is the key.

When it comes to nutritious diet choices, there is no shortage of guidance. With so much conflicting advice and so many dietary options, how do you know what type of diet might work for you? Finding a sustainable and healthy diet is not hard. Read a few different books, go online, ask your medical provider or consult a nutritionist.

A couple weeks ago, I received a call from Dr. Fred Distelhorst. Fred is a longtime local, retired dentist and an inspirational and giving person. On the day Fred called me, he wanted to share with me some information on health concerns that may be relevant to locals here in the valley. One of the topics we discussed was coronary disease. Before we hung up, Fred asked if I would be interested in reading a couple books. On his own volition and with his own money, he mailed me some great reading material that I would like to share.

It's not a diet — it's a way of life.

One of the books Fred sent to me is "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease," by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. While the book was a good read, it was difficult for me to get past the first three chapters. His method of prevention and reversal utilizes a strict plant-based diet. This is a very regimented diet and one I personally would find very difficult to follow. Perhaps if I was facing mortality from advanced coronary artery disease, as the 24 patients ranging in age from 43 to 67 in his study were, I'd be more motivated.

Bar none, Dr. Esselstyn's program has proven successful. As he states in the book, "Those who complied with my program achieved total arrest of clinical progression and significant selective reversal of coronary artery disease."

Personal choice

Changing one's health and quality of life needs to be more a way of life than diet.

One of the reason coronary disease runs so rampant here in America is because too many people gorge on a diet that is rich in animal proteins and fats, high in cholesterol and saturated fats, high in processed foods and low in fiber, complex carbohydrates and vegetables.

Choosing to live by a healthy eating regimen is quite personal. Although there are many variations of healthy lifestyle diets, plant based, Paleo and Mediterranean are a few of the most common.

The Paleo and Mediterranean lifestyle diets are less restrictive. People choosing the Paleo diet eat all the lean, healthy proteins, but cut out grains, beans, most sugars and processed foods. In general, dairy products not allowed in a Paleo Diet. This diet can be challenging to follow when you are not preparing meals within your home kitchen, i.e. dining out or traveling.

The Mediterranean lifestyle diets emphasizes fruits, vegetables, legumes, unrefined grains, fish, olives/olive oil, nuts and seeds. This diet is light in meat and poultry and therefore one criticism of the Mediterranean diet is that it can be somewhat deficient in protein.

Choosing a lifestyle diet is personal and I don't know that there is a one specific eating pattern that works for everyone. Any of the three are better than eating the standard American diet.

There are benefits and drawbacks to every way of eating. It's important to find one that is balanced, sustainable, enjoyable and tailored to your specific needs.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns and call 970-328-5526.