Can Fast Food Ever Be Good for Your Heart?

assortment of fast food in boxes

As cardiologists, when we speak to a patient and find out that they eat a lot of fast food, the first reaction is often to shudder. After all, fast food is known to be highly processed, high in saturated fat, and often high in sugar, especially sodas and desserts, which are distinctly heart unfriendly. However, many patients either don’t have access to healthy and fresh foods or don’t have the time and use fast food to fill the gap during a very busy or stressful day.

In fact, for some, fast food is the only way to get a meal or two before getting off work and having a proper dinner. So, we’re often asked: Should we skip the meal instead of eating fast food? On the surface, it may be “absolutely, yes!” After all, how bad could skipping a meal be? However, it’s not quite so cut and dried. Skipping a meal can have consequences, most notably consuming far more calories at subsequent meals. Controlling yourself at the next meal isn’t easy if you miss a meal and become ravenous. Further, fast food restaurants (at least some of them) have made significant strides in recent years to offer healthier options and customize some current menu items to make them less unhealthy. Let’s explore!

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What Does Heart-Healthy Mean in Day-To-Day Life?

Woman exercising and stretching holding knee to chest

These days, heart health has become a loosely used term. And while the theory behind heart, healthy foods, drinks, and activities are important to understand, how can one practice a healthy heart lifestyle in “real” life? In other words, with all the temptations around us, what can we do to prolong our heart health and, frankly, our lives?

The most important thing to understand about heart health is that it is not a zero-sum game. If you have been following lax dietary and exercise habits and experiencing high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, or other metabolic concerns, it’s important to remember that these did not develop overnight and will not be fixed immediately. Getting back to a heart-healthy lifestyle is a continuum that will start with minor improvements that eventually lead to more considerable successes—being heart-healthy means changing habits for the better but doing so sustainably.

Plenty of data supports the concept of incremental improvements leading to long-term overall success. These improvements may seem small, but as we stack one on the other, we slowly but surely reach our goals.

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Are Ozempic, Mounjaro, Wegovy, and Similar Drugs Good for Your Heart Health?

diabetes tools and injections on orange table

If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ve probably seen much coverage on using OzempicTM, a diabetes drug approved in 2017 by the FDA, and WegovyTM (with the same active ingredient), approved in 2022 for certain obese patients. These drugs, and others like MounjaroTM and RybelsusTM, have been in such high demand that we are experiencing the effects of production shortfalls. Notably, while Ozempic and Mounjaro are diabetes drugs, they can still be prescribed “off-label” by qualified physicians and clinicians.

Let’s discuss whether these drugs make sense for a patient concerned about heart disease, and in doing so, we will focus on the two drugs (both Semaglutides) that have garnered the most headlines – Ozempic and Wegovy. Ozempic has apparent positive effects on type-2 diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels through improved insulin sensitivity in type two diabetics. While taking the drug, most patients ate less and lost weight, leading the developer to seek FDA approval for a new higher-dose indication as a weight loss therapy – Wegovy was brought to market last year.

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Discussing Questions Raised by a Recent Study on Intermittent Fasting

plate with alarm clock on it, in between fork and knifeThere has been quite a bit of debate in the medical and diet community about a recent study entitled Calorie Restriction with or without Time-Restricted Eating in Weight Loss which showed, in essence, that intermittent fasting was no more successful in providing weight loss than caloric restriction.

First, let’s talk about how this study was misinterpreted. Many media outlets interpreted this study as saying intermittent fasting was ineffective. However, other studies have shown this not to be the case. Some thoughts:

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Unclogging Your Arteries Naturally – Is It Possible?

artery clogged with plaque, blood buildup cannot passCoronary artery disease, or CAD, is one of the most common cardiovascular diseases in the world and involves the arteries that transport oxygen-rich blood around the entire body. These incredible delivery vehicles constantly expand and contract, 24 hours a day, to ensure that blood reaches its destinations around the body efficiently. However, as we age, and are largely dependent on our dietary and lifestyle choices, these arteries can begin accumulating plaque deposits. The arteries become progressively narrower, and less blood can reach its destination, the heart. The result significantly increases the risk of a deadly heart attack. When this occlusion happens in the extremities, it is known as peripheral artery disease (PAD). It can cause significant problems in the arms and legs, including, if left untreated, amputation of the affected limb.

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Confusion & Misinformation Around Heart Health, Fats, & Misunderstood Carbs

woman eating healthy fatty salmon with carbs in moderationThere’s plenty of information out there to help in supporting your heart health through solid dietary choices. This includes details like what to eat more often, what to eat less frequently, and what to avoid entirely. Unfortunately, not all the information is accurate, with hundreds, if not thousands, of “influencers” giving their opinions each day. With free-flowing medical advice and information, it can be difficult to know what is fact and fiction. Most importantly, it’s essential to understand that a single food group is not inherently bad. There are undoubtedly bad choices within that food group, but there are also decidedly good ones.

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Is Sodium Really That Bad for Your Heart?

Cooking at home allows you to know and control the amount of salt added to your dish when monitoring your sodium intake

It’s a piece of advice that we’ve all heard. Reduce your sodium to improve your heart health. But does sodium truly affect your heart, or is this advice now outdated? First, let’s discuss sodium and its importance to the body. Sodium is a common mineral and represents an essential part of the proper functioning of our bodies. Without sodium, we wouldn’t be able to live, so before continuing, it’s important to understand that it wouldn’t be healthy or practical to eliminate sodium from our lives. However, most of us consume far too much sodium, typically in the form of salt.

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Obese and Malnourished, a Double Whammy to Your Heart’s Health

Obesity and malnutrition can coexist and have detrimental consequences for your health

It is no surprise that obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. We consume more calories than we ever have in the past. Plus, the quality of what we eat has declined dramatically with the introduction of highly processed foods and the higher costs associated with fresh and organic produce. The result is that approximately a third of all American adults are obese, and about 2/3 of American adults are overweight.

When we think about excess weight, our first thought goes to overeating. While this may be true, all too often, we are not eating enough…of the good stuff. Instead, we usually consume empty calories like refined sugars, simple carbs like white bread and rice, and saturated fats that don’t offer much nutrition.

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Three Once-Maligned Foods That Are Good for Your Heart

Eggs were once believed to be unhealthy for the heart but we now know more about their health benefits and impact on heart health

When it comes to the healthfulness of certain foods, we often see flip-flopping in the scientific community. This is especially true for the three foods we will be discussing today. Of course, we must get proper nutrition, but it is also important to consider how we get it. The three foods we will discuss have alternately been called super nutritious and harmful for you at different times in the past. Today we will put those questions to rest!

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Diet Corner – Mediterranean Diet with Intermittent Fasting

Studies have shown that a pesco-Mediterranean diet and intermittent fasting are both excellent disease improvement tools. Combined, they offer a powerful weight loss option too.

Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in the United States and in many countries around the world. However, heart disease is also one of the most preventable and treatable diseases that we face. Indeed, dozens of accessible tests can predict future heart disease. Many are so simple that they are scheduled for an average patient’s annual physical exam. If a patient does have a higher risk for heart disease, the first line of defense is improving their diet. Unfortunately, modern-day dieting has turned into following extreme or fad diets that deprive us of many of the foods we want the most. However, taking an approach of moderation and eating healthful but delicious foods not only improves outcomes but also makes it easier for us to follow these diets long term.

Before we delve into Dr. Robine’s favorite dietary plan, it is worth understanding that a combination of what we eat and how we eat it really has made the difference between a generation ago, when obesity was not a great concern, and today, where it represents one of the most serious societal issues that we face. Simply by removing the worst offending foods and eating normal portions, we can take significant steps toward improved health. However, for those already suffering from excess weight and obesity, there is a great option in the form of a pesco-Mediterranean diet with intermittent fasting. Continue reading

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