Editor’s Spot: Less Considered Causes of Heart Disease
By Judith Riddle
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 26 No. 2 P. 4

A few months ago, my husband and I visited the Caribbean country of Grenada (dubbed the Spice Island), located north of Trinidad and Tobago and south of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

What we loved most about Grenada was the people’s hospitality, the hot weather, the fruits and vegetables, and the fresh fish, chicken, beef, and lamb dishes. We tried some foods for the first time, like callaloo soup, lambie (a large shellfish also known as conch), and oil down, Grenada’s national dish—a one-pot stew made with salted meat, chicken or fish, dumplings, coconut milk, turmeric, vegetables, and breadfruit.

Then, I got to thinkin’. How healthful is the food in Grenada, and what is the chronic disease risk there, namely heart disease? Like the United States and several countries around the world, Grenada has many types of fruits, vegetables, grains, seafood, and lean meats to eat to keep its population healthy and at low risk of chronic disease, but there are cooking methods (frying) and ingredients (excess salt, sugar, and saturated fats) used to prepare these foods that aren’t so healthful.

According to the World Health Organization, the top three causes of death in Grenada are ischemic heart disease, stroke, and, in females, diabetes, in males, prostate cancer. In the United States, the top three causes of death are ischemic heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; stroke is number four in females and lung cancer in males. Ischemic heart disease, or coronary heart disease, is a condition in which plaque buildup within artery walls restricts the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. The plaque buildup, made of cholesterol deposits, causes the arteries to narrow over time, a disease process called atherosclerosis. What can lead to ischemic heart disease is overweight, physical inactivity, unhealthful eating, tobacco smoking, and family history.

As dietitians know, eating a healthful diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lean meats, coupled with regular physical activity, can significantly lower heart disease risk.

But have you considered the link between mental health and CVD risk and how diet plays a role? In this month’s issue, Today’s Dietitian explores this association in the article “Mental Health’s Link to CVD Risk” on page 16 and discusses how nutrition and lifestyle interventions may have a positive impact.

Also in this issue are Q&As with experts on incorporating diabetes technology in dietetics practice and food as medicine, as well as articles on digestive enzyme supplements and the future of dietetics education. Please enjoy the issue!

— Judith Riddle, Editor