A recent Time Magazine article highlights that scientists actually know a lot more today about what keeps the heart humming than they did a generation ago.
The first glimmerings of understanding gathered 30 years ago were accurate as far as they went- but admittedly rudimentary. Today scientists have a much deeper understanding of what foods and activities are healthful or harmful – and why.
“A few decades ago, taking care of your heart didn’t seem all that complicated. You ate a balanced diet, didn’t drink too much and got some fresh air and exercise – a round of golf, maybe. That was about it. Not that everyone, or even most people, actually lived up to these standards. But if you fell short, at least you knew what to feel guilty about.”
Then we started hearing from the scientists. People who thought they were doing everything right, it turned out, were actually abusing their bodies – and in particular, their hearts.
The cholesterol in steaks, cream, butter and especially those breakfast eggs was clogging arteries like sludge in a stopped-up drainpipe. Salt was poison: it drove up blood pressure and put an unhealthy strain on the ticker. Overeating and becoming overweight were a sure ticket to a coronary.
So, the thinking was, better cut out the steak, treat yourself to one egg a week (if you must), switch from butter to margarine and hide the saltshaker. Oh, and don’t waste time with golf.
Vigorous, pulse-pounding exercise was the only way to keep your weight within limits – and just as important, your heart properly toned. It was a spartan regimen and made folks who didn’t follow it feel guiltier than ever, but it retained the virtue of being comprehensible.
Out With The Old, In With The New?
Recently, however, the scientists seem to have gone mad. Hardly a week goes by without some expert somewhere issuing a new report declaring that a particular food or vitamin or activity or condition will either restore your cardiovascular health or ruin it – and as often as not, the new advice seems to contradict the old.
In tomorrow’s post “The Omega-3 Battle: Which Margarine Is Healthier?” I’ll address a related story about a recent finding that not all omega-3s are created equal.