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Making mince-meat of your heart: cardiovascular disease & diet

Posted: 1st July 2014   |   30 comments

Last night, Native Affairs ran a story about the fat content of mince in Kaiti, Gisborne. Whilst I recommend you click on the link and watch the report, the brief story is that the cheapest mince at the (not so) supermarkets had between 20 and 30 percent fat content. The recommended fat content in mince is under 10 percent. Mince is the most popular meat product for whānau on a low income.

Whenever I go to a marae for a kaupapa or attend a kura or kōhanga reo event, it's likely we'll have something with mince: mince on toast, mince on pasta, mince with mashed potatoes and mince pie are all staples. At home we also use mince to make lasagne, spaghetti bolognaise, meatloaf, nachos or burgers. However, the mince we have at home is a bit more expensive than the stuff we use at large events; that's the point of the Native Affairs item.
Blockages are like a finger over a hose: they build pressure.
One of the problem with cheap meats like fatty mince is the long term health effects. Fatty meats are a big contributor to cholesterol build-up (and other more obvious things, like obesity) and this contributes to the fatty deposits in your arteries that lead to heart disease (also know as cardiovascular disease).

Heart disease is caused by the build up of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries. It takes years for the fatty deposits build up in the artery walls and this process is medically known as atherosclerosis. The fatty deposits, or 'plaques,’ are made up of a lot of things including cholesterol. Overtime the artery may become so narrow that it can’t deliver enough blood oxygen to your heart, especially when you are exerting yourself. This can lead to chest pain or angina which you will feel as a pain or discomfort in your chest.

If that hasn't already got you worrying about your chest, perhaps a description of what happens next might help. As the coronary arteries narrow, you will often experience chest pain or tightness, known as angina. This pain may spread to the left shoulder or arm or to the neck and jaw. The pain is common after: exercise; stressful situations; a heavy meal; in cold weather. Other early symptoms of heart disease include you being aware that you heart is not beating normally or being short of breath when doing light activity. It's also possible to have no noticeable symptoms. Most heart disease is diagnosed as a result of an incident, like a heart attack. Awesome!

That all sounds a bit worrying, but you can do something about heart disease by making small changes to your lifestyle to either reduce your risk of developing heart disease or mitigate the effects of heart disease. The obvious changes are:

    Quit smoking
    Controlling high blood pressure
    Reducing your cholesterol level
    Being physically active
    Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
    Controlling your blood glucose if you have diabetes
    Eating a healthy, balanced diet and only drinking moderate amounts of alcohol.

That last one, eating a balanced diet can be challenging if you are on a low income. But what the Native Affairs item above is telling us is that we should not see healthy eating as another few dollars out of this week's income so much as investing in a healthier life further down the line. So next time you're at Pak'n'Save, buy the premium mince, so you're here for longer with your mokopuna.

[Thanks to the Heart Foundation for all the great information on their website about heart disease]
 

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