With heart disease now the biggest killer in most of the industrialised world people are searching for ways to protect their heart health. Studies have shown that the lowest death rates from heart disease are in the Mediterranean countries where people consume a lot of olive oil. So this poses the question, does olive oil prevent heart disease or is it just another coincidence?
Heart disease explained
Heart disease is a term for a range of conditions that affect your heart and it’s the biggest killer of Australians today with one Australian dyeing of heart disease every 27mins. The diseases that come under the term are diseases that affect your blood vessels that can lead to heart attack, chest pain and stroke, and diseases that affect your hearts muscle, valves and rhythm and conditions of that are that you may be born with.
There are many risk factors for heart disease and roughly 90% of Australians have at least 1 risk factor. These risk factors include; smoking, obesity, cholesterol, high blood pressure, being inactive, diabetes and poor diet. The best thing you can do to prevent heart disease is to limit your risk factors and protect your heart.
The Mediterranean diet
Science is showing that choosing olive oil, alongside a healthy diet, may actually reduce your risk of heart disease and even increase your life expectancy. A study comparing the diets of European and North American diets against the Mediterranean diet over 30 years has shown that the Mediterranean diet is linked with a lower risk of heart disease, lowered risk of certain cancers and a longer life expectancy, despite their higher dietary fat intake!
So does olive oil really help?
Apparently YES! Olive oil really can help to prevent heart disease. Olive oil actually reduces our risk factors for heart disease and helps to protect our heart by:
- Decreasing plasma triglycerides- elevated levels of triglycerides in the blood are associated with an increased risk for heart disease.
- Lowering LDL cholesterol- LDL cholesterol is named “bad cholesterol” because it’s simply bad for us. It builds up in our arteries and can lead to heart attacks.
- reducing inflammation and oxidative damage,
- Decreasing risk of blood clots- this helps to prevent heart failure and stroke.
- Increasing HDL cholesterol- HDL cholesterol or “good cholesterol” plays a protective role within our bodies and helps to prevent fatty patches forming. HDL also removes LD cholesterol from our arteries and sends them to our livers to be removed with bile.
- Olive oil is also a potent antioxidant which also helps to lower our risk of breast, colon, lung, ovarian and skin cancer development.
A number of studies have also shown that olive oil consumption also has positive effects on our blood pressure, arthritis, immune function and can help with obesity.
This means that olive oil really can help with the prevention of heart disease by reducing a number of risk factors!
Olive oil intake for good health?
Just remember that olive oil does have a high calorie count so don’t start drinking a cup a day! 1-2 TBS daily will give you the preventative measures that you need. Also look for extra virgin olive oil as this is a much purer form of the oil and contains more health benefits.
Keeping your heart healthy is one of the best things you can do to prevent and manage heart disease. So I guess it’s time to switch out your butter and vegetable oils and start protecting your heart by using extra virgin olive oil instead!