Nuts for Walnuts? What You Need to Know about Walnuts and Cardiovascular Health

Can eating walnuts improve your cardiovascular health? According to the American Heart Association (AHA), cardiovascular disease affects nearly half of all American adults. If you have a heart or blood vessel disease, or are at an increased risk for a cardiovascular condition, take a look at how walnuts could help you to stay healthy.

What Can Walnuts Do For You?

Walnuts are tasty treats that top salads, banana splits, and your other favorite foods. Even though walnuts may seem like an accent, they’re much more than just an extra addition. Years of research has found that these nuts have plenty of health-related benefits — including for your heart and blood vessels.

More specifically, these nuts can help people with heart disease or at risk for cardiovascular issues to maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, according to the California Walnut Board.

Not only can walnuts help to improve cholesterol levels and fight off hypertension (high blood pressure), these small-sized treats could potentially reduce the risks of heart attack, stroke, or even death in some patients. 

How Do Walnuts Fight Cardiovascular Disease?

Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, these fatty acids may prevent some people from developing erratic heart rhythms. Omega-3’s also help to lower the bad (or LDL) type of cholesterol and raise good (or HDL) cholesterol. When combined, these heart-healthy benefits can lower the risks of developing coronary artery disease. 

A 2018 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that the consumption of walnuts at least one time per week and peanuts/tree nuts two or more times per week could lower the risk of total cardiovascular disease by between 13 and 19 percent. The same study also found that this type of nut consumption could lower the risk of coronary heart disease by between 15 and 23 percent. 

Research from a 2020 study, also published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, also found that walnut consumption had significant heart health benefits. This study looked at the anti-inflammatory properties of the nuts and how these benefits relate to the reduction of heart disease.

Chronic or persistent inflammation may increase a person’s risk of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a buildup of fats and other substances in artery walls. This buildup — also known as plaque — blocks the blood flow and can lead to blood clots, coronary artery disease, carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease, or kidney disease. 

How Can You Add Walnuts To Your Diet?

Given the heart health benefits of walnuts, you’re now likely eager to add this food to your daily or weekly diet. But you may not be sure how to incorporate nuts into your healthy eating plan. Some people enjoy eating nuts as-is—while others prefer to use walnuts as a garnish.

If you don’t want to eat plain nuts, you may add walnuts to salads, mix them into your hot cereal, or use them as a staple for a high-protein granola recipe. 

Before you buy bags of walnuts, think about which ones will help you the most. Some walnuts are salted or are coated in high-sodium artificial flavors. While the nuts themselves have heart health benefits, the added sodium could put you at a greater risk for high blood pressure or worsen existing hypertension.

Likewise, sweetened nuts could also adversely affect your health. Instead of nuts with additives or coatings, choose plain walnuts. Even though these unsalted, unsweetened nuts may seem boring, walnuts have enough natural taste on their own. Talk to your doctor about the amount of nuts you should, could, or need to eat.

Do you want to learn more about your cardiovascular health? Contact the Cardio Vascular Institute for more information. 

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Cardio Vascular Institute of Scottsdale