6 Steps to Make Your Diet More Heart-Healthy

Heart dis­ease remains the No. 1 cause of death in the US and kills near­ly 380,000 peo­ple a year. While this mor­tal­i­ty rate has fall­en dra­mat­i­cal­ly over the last 10 years, risk fac­tors are still alarm­ing­ly high. Pre­ven­tion is an essen­tial ele­ment in the fight against heart dis­ease — much of which can be man­aged through diet.

You always hear about a heart-healthy diet” — but what does that mean? Hav­ing a heart-healthy diet includes foods that elim­i­nate risk fac­tors for heart dis­ease, and help main­tain healthy lev­els of cho­les­terol [link to cho­les­terol page] and fat­ty mol­e­cules called lipids.

This begins by pay­ing close atten­tion to what you eat. Eat­ing heart-healthy foods decreas­es the chance of devel­op­ing ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis, the block­ing of arter­ies that caus­es heart dis­ease. And if this process has already begun, a heart-healthy diet can slow the rate at which it is pro­gress­ing. This is even more impor­tant if you have had a heart attack or heart surgery.

By adopt­ing a heart-healthy nutri­tion strat­e­gy, you can reduce your cho­les­terol, low­er blood pres­sure, low­er blood sug­ar, and reduce your body weight. The best thing about this diet strat­e­gy is that is focus­es on what you can eat instead of what you can’t eat!

1. Incor­po­rate fish into your week­ly meals

Aim to have fish in your diet twice a week. Oily fish like salmon, mack­er­el and sar­dines are rich in omega‑3 fat­ty acids.

2. Eat more fruits and vegetables

Focus on fruits and veg­gies that are deeply col­ored (like spinach, car­rots, and blue­ber­ries) as they have the high­est micronu­tri­ent con­tent. Try to have a fruit and veg­etable with every meal.

3. Choose healthy fats (olive/​peanut oil)

Monoun­sat­u­rat­ed fat­ty acids should be your first choice for fat intake. Some fat is essen­tial for nor­mal body func­tion but can have good and bad effects on your health depend­ing on your body’s chem­istry. The type of fat con­sumed is more impor­tant than the total amount when it comes to reduc­ing heart disease.

4. Watch your sodi­um intake

You should only con­sume about 2,300 mg of sodi­um each day (the amount in a tea­spoon). Focus on the places where salt lurks in your diet such as pre­pared and prepack­aged foods.

5. Choose whole grains

Grain pro­vides fiber, vit­a­mins, min­er­als and com­plex car­bo­hy­drates. Look for low-fat breads, cere­als, crack­ers, rice and pas­ta. They are high in B vit­a­mins, iron and fiber and low in fat and cholesterol.

6. Lim­it Sugar

Foods that are high in sug­ar tend to be high in calo­ries and low in nutri­tion. Lim­it the amount of soda and can­dy you eat.

To learn more about your diet/​nutrition, make an appoint­ment with a reg­is­tered dietit­ian. To find a car­di­ol­o­gist near you, vis­it our depart­ment of Car­di­ology.

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