Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a common yet serious health issue that is often caused by a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries, as well as an increased risk of blood clots.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), defines cardiovascular disease (CVD) as a term used to describe conditions that affect the heart and/or circulation. It identifies CVDs as a major public health problem because it increases the risk of premature death and disability due to heart attack, stroke, and other related conditions.
It is important for Nigerians to understand the risk factors for CVD and how to prevent it.
The four risk factors recognised by the global health body are: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and physical inactivity. These risk factors can be managed through lifestyle modifications, such as reducing the amount of salt and fatty and sugary food consumed, being physically active, and avoiding smoking.
In addition to making lifestyle modifications, the WHO also recommends that Nigerians receive regular health check-ups and screenings for cardiovascular disease. This helps to identify risk factors and other symptoms early, enabling early diagnosis and treatment.
Best Nigerian Foods for Lowering Cardiovascular Diseases
When it comes to keeping our hearts healthy, we all understand the importance of maintaining a good diet. For the people of Nigeria, traditional Nigerian foods are the most effective way of preserving their cardiovascular health.
In a telephone interview with Mrs Oluwatoyin Adele, a dietician at the Gbagada General Hospital Lagos, she disclosed that there are some Nigerian foods that have been identified as particularly beneficial for lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases. These are:
She identified yam as one of the best Nigerian foods for lowering cardiovascular diseases, as It is high in fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of associated diseases, such as heart attack and stroke. Fibers also contain antioxidants that help to protect the heart from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. She noted that the high levels of potassium in yams also help to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke.
Another dietary staple of Nigerians which she highlighted for reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases is plantain. She averred that plantains are rich in vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, vitamin C and E, magnesium, and folate. These nutrients help to reduce inflammation, which has been associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases. Plantains are also high in fiber, which has been shown to reduce levels of bad cholesterol.
This is another Nigerian food that can help to decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases. She said fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce inflammation and to protect the heart from damage. Eating fish regularly can also lower levels of harmful LDL cholesterol and increase levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol. Additionally, fish such as tilapia, salmon and sardines are rich in vitamin D, which is important for healthy heart functioning.
A traditional dish that helps to mitigate cardiovascular risk is Moi-Moi. This dish is made from beans, which are naturally low in cholesterol and fat. Adele stated that Moi-Moi has a high amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals that contribute to the overall health of the cardiovascular system. Additionally, Moi-Moi can be prepared in different ways, such as steaming, boiling, and baking, so it is versatile for people of different cooking styles and preferences.
- Egusi Soup
Furthermore, Egusi Soup is also a healthy Nigerian food that helps to maintain cardiovascular health. It is prepared with melon seeds that are rich in unsaturated fatty acids which have positive effects on the health of the heart. These fatty acids, according to the dietician can help to reduce inflammation, cholesterol levels, and even blood pressure. Since Egusi Soup is also a high-energy food, it can help to maintain a healthy weight, which is another factor in reducing the risk of heart-related diseases.
Garri is a staple food made from cassava. It is high in fiber, antioxidants, and minerals, making it a great choice for promoting heart health. The fiber content, she noted, helps to maintain a healthy cholesterol level, and the antioxidants help to ward off cellular damage caused by oxidative stress. Furthermore, the minerals in garri, such as zinc and magnesium, aid in reducing the risk of hypertension and stroke.