A healthy diet that includes fish, fruit and vegetables can reduce the chances for heart disease, a US doctor said Thursday.
That nutritional balance was once common in Cambodian food, but that is changing, Taing Tek Hong, a Florida-based physician, told “Hello VOA.”
To understand heart disease, it is important to understand the heart, which itself looks like a papaya, the doctor said Thursday.
“There is a hole inside the heart and there are four rooms in the hole,” he said. “Two rooms are in the upper level, and another two are in the bottom level. The heart pumps blood to feed brain and body.”
The most significant symptom of heart disease is a pain in the chest when a person is exerting himself, but sometimes there are no symptoms, the doctor said.
“Heart disease is caused by plaque, fatty materials, building up on the inner walls of the coronary arteries, which carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart,” he said. “The plaque ruins the heart muscle, which weakens the heart muscle to pump blood and causes heart failure. If the blood vessels are clogged, blood cannot flow as much as is needed to heart, which makes the heart beat irregularly, and causes us to feel dizzy and tired and sometimes leads to a heart attack.”
Asked whether smoking can cause heart disease, Taing Tek Hong said, “terribly.”
“Smoking makes blood vessels narrow and reduces oxygen in blood,” he said. “Therefore, smoking is one of the causes of heart disease.”
“There’s medicine to cure heart failure,” he said. “You should go to see the doctor. A general practitioner should be able to help, but if it doesn’t work, visit a heart specialist.”
Heart disease can be prevented by a good diet, including avoiding animal fat, like butter or pork fat, he said.
“Vegetables and fruit, you must eat these five times per day,” he said. “Fish is the best source of protein, and fish fat is good. You need to exercise at least 30 minutes each session, at least four days per week.”
Cambodia is facing more heart disease than ever before, the doctor said, because food has become too rich.
“During the 1970s when I was a medical student working in a hospital, there were no heart disease patients,” he said. “Once in a while rich people or high-ranking officials had heart disease, because they had food with a lot of fat.”
“Now people use a lot of meat with fat and butter, which causes more heart disease,” he said. “Khmer food is good because we use fish, like prahok, and a lot of vegetables.”