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How almonds protect the heart, even under stressful conditions

August 17, 2021
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How almonds protect the heart, even under stressful conditions

In a healthy heart, the beats are irregular. This statement may seem strange on first reading but it represents reality. Indeed, a healthy heart has an irregular beating with a great variability, always ready to adapt to external stimuli, while a low cardiac variability indicates suffering and can, in the long term, increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Well, the diet can work by protecting the heart. In particular, almonds can restore heart rate variability even under conditions of great stress. This is what emerges from a recent scientific research published in the Nutrients magazine by an English team from King's College London (Dikariyanto et al, Nutrients, 2020).

The healthy heart has an irregular rhythm

We must think of the healthy heart as a boxer, always ready to jump on one leg or the other, make a flick and pull back. In fact, the heartbeat should be irregular, with variations in the order of milliseconds between one beat and another and ready to change rhythm. This happens because on the heart rhythm act the sympathetic nervous system, which is the part of the autonomic nervous system that works to give attention and alertness and which induces slow changes in the beat, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which instead stimulates rest and induces rapid changes.

Stress and heartbeat

Well, in conditions of great stress the heart variability can decrease and the heartbeat rhythm can be too regular. Such a heart is less ready to adapt to stimuli and, in the long run, can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems. However, diet and physical activity can modify cardiac variability, restoring it, even if these effects have not yet been fully understood and demonstrated.

Almonds, properties for the heart

Almonds are a precious source of fatty acids, fiber, potassium, magnesium and vitamin E. The consumption of almonds has been linked to a reduction in cardiovascular risk with improvements in bad cholesterol values, blood pressure and adiposity. To understand the role of almonds on heart rate variability, scientists drew up a research.

The experiment

The researchers recruited 109 people, aged between 30 and 70 with an above average risk of cardiovascular disease. The volunteers were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to take 60 grams per day of almonds for two weeks, the second group instead received muffins that contained the same amount of calories as almonds. At the end of the two weeks, the study participants underwent tests to measure heart variability, first at rest and then during mental stress. What emerged was that the group that consumed the almonds had, even under stressful conditions, an increase in heart variability. In particular, an increase in rapid changes was measured, indicating that the parasympathetic nervous system, the one capable of inducing rest, was prevailing.

Almonds reduce cardiovascular risk

Therefore, almonds are a healthy snack capable of reducing cardiovascular risk by increasing the variability of the heart rhythm.

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