Mediterranean diet combined with exercise is great for heart health
Heart health becomes a more significant issue as we age. The heart benefits of a Mediterranean diet are really remarkable. Over the years there has been an increased awareness of how healthy lifestyles and good nutrition can have a positive impact on heart health. There's no doubt about it that a healthy heart and a healthy lifestyle go hand-in-hand.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada has reported, "High-intensity interval training combined with Mediterranean diet counseling ‘supersizes’ heart health." A study released at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress says that lifestyle programs which are focused on high-intensity interval training in combination with nutritional counseling on the Mediterranean diet have been associated with dramatic results for improving the heart health of people with abdominal obesity.
Dr. Mathieu Gayda, one of the study’s authors and an exercise physiologist at the Montreal Heart Institute, has said, “Each of these lifestyle interventions alone is known to have an impact, but no one has studied them together in a longer term.”
Dr. Gayda goes on to say, “Our results show that the combination of the two interventions supersized the benefits to heart health.” It was seen that the heart health benefits included dramatic improvements in body fat mass, muscle endurance, weight loss, waist circumference, cholesterol and blood pressure levels, exercise capacity, resting heart rate and blood sugar control."
In this study there was an average reduction in waist circumference of eight centimeters and a reduction in systolic blood pressure of 6 mm Hg. There was also an aerobic fitness improvement of 15 per cent over the course of the first nine months of the study.
With improvements in waist circumference, blood pressure and fitness we can see a myriad of other health benefits which includes a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure, as well as improved quality of life, physical functioning, and cognition. In participants with diabetes blood sugar levels also improved on average by 23 per cent.
The American Heart Association reports that there is no one "Mediterranean" diet. There are at least 16 countries which border the Mediterranean Sea and diets vary between these countries and also between various regions within a country.
Furthermore, differences in culture, ethnic background, religion, economy and agricultural production lead to different diets. However, there is a common Mediterranean dietary pattern which has the same basic characteristics.
A standard Mediterranean diet consists of a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds, bread and other cereals. Olive oil is a very important monounsaturated fat source in this diet. Wine is included in this diet in low to moderate amounts.
The vital importance of healthy behaviors in protecting your heart health to gain more healthy years of life is highlighted in a report released by the Heart and Stroke Foundation earlier this year. It has been observed that a sedentary lifestyle results in about four lost quality years of life. And eating a poor diet results in about three lost quality years of life.
If you quit smoking you can add two and a half more quality years of life. Meanwhile, excessive stress can cost you nearly two years of quality life and excessive alcohol consumption may cost you two quality years of life. The bottom line is staying in shape and eating well is vital for good cardiac health and longevity with a high quality of life, and the Mediterranean diet offers optimal nutrition for heart health, especially combined with exercise and other healthy lifestyle practices.