Q. What are some leading risk factors of poor heart health?
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an unhealthy diet, coupled with insufficient physical activity might contribute to health conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, all of which are risk factors of heart disease. Smoking is also a major contributor to cardiovascular disease.
Q. Why do you think poor heart health is becoming a more prevalent problem, especially in recent times?
The latest National Population Health Survey shows a worrying rise in chronic diseases and unhealthy lifestyles. The number of people with high blood pressure increased 50 per cent from 2019 to last year, while the diabetes prevalence rate in Singapore rose 9.5 per cent in the same period.
Additionally, half of the population reported that they get most of their physical activity through commuting. Prolonged periods of work-from-home during the Covid-19 pandemic might lead to less commute time and increased physical inactivity.
Q. What are some lifestyle habits to adopt to support heart health?
Don't smoke, get at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per week, manage stress well, drink alcohol in moderation and adopt a healthy diet.
Q. What are some foods that I can add to my diet to support heart health?
A good piece of general advice to follow is to eat everything in moderation, especially for unhealthy food. Reduce intake of food and beverages that contain added sugar, sodium, and trans fats.
Research from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that people who adopt a healthy diet were found to have a 31 per cent lower risk of heart disease, a 33 per cent lower risk of diabetes, and a 20 per cent lower risk of stroke.
Here are some foods that are part of a healthy diet:
Vegetables: Research shows that eating leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli and kale, is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. These vegetables are chock full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support a healthy heart.
Whole grains: Cut down on refined carbohydrates and switch to oats, quinoa, rye, barley, buckwheat and brown rice. Compared to refined grains, whole grains are higher in fibre. Research shows that eating whole grains is associated with lower cholesterol and lower risk of heart disease.
Berries: They are one of the best fruits to eat for overall nutrition as they are rich in antioxidants that can help to fight oxidative stress and inflammation. Research shows that consuming strawberries can reduce LDL cholesterol.
Garlic: Garlic has a compound called allicin which is believed to have health benefits. Garlic intake is linked to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Omega-3: It is present in fatty fish like tuna and sardines, as well as other seafood like oysters and shrimp, or non-fish sources like seaweed, walnuts, chia seeds and edamame.
You may also consider a dietary supplement to meet the daily recommended intake of 500 mg to 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
Q. What are the benefits of taking omega-3 supplements?
As the body can't make omega-3 fatty acids from scratch, you should get them from food sources or supplements.
According to Health Hub, omega-3 fatty acids support heart health by decreasing triglyceride levels and supporting healthy blood circulation. They may also reduce the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque, which can block blood vessels.
Furthermore, Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid, makes up over 90 per cent of the omega-3 fatty acids in your brain. It is an important ingredient for brain health as it helps your brain's nerve cells to communicate more easily, quickly and efficiently. Research suggests that DHA is especially beneficial for older adults who experience age-related cognitive decline in memory and learning.
A dietary supplement to consider is Suntory DHA & EPA + Sesamin EX from Japan, which is a holistic formulation of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, sesamin from sesame seeds, and vitamin E.
Q. What is sesamin and how does it benefit me or my overall well-being?
Sesamin in Suntory DHA & EPA + Sesamin EX supplement is a component that makes up less than 1 per cent of a sesame seed. It is extracted using a proprietary technology developed over 30 years by Suntory.
Sesamin's excellence comes from being easily absorbed by your small intestines to reach your liver, where its antioxidant effects are activated.
DHA and EPA are easily oxidised. As an excellent antioxidant, sesamin protects DHA and EPA from oxidising easily and becoming harmful to your health. With sesamin present, the amount of DHA and EPA loss due to oxidation is reduced. So the effectiveness of your omega-3 supplement can be amplified by the presence of a strong antioxidant.
Apart from antioxidant effects, sesamin also supports liver function. When supplemented with vitamin E, a person can even feel improvements in sleep quality and energy levels.