Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. About 81 million people in the United States have some form of heart/cardiovascular disease—that's about 35 percent of the population. Many of these deaths and risk factors are preventable, and food choices have a big impact on your heart's health, even if you have other risk factors.
Only a few risk factors, such as age, gender and family history, cannot be controlled. You can prevent and control many risk factors of heart disease, such as high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, excess weight and obesity, with lifestyle changes and medications.
A healthy lifestyle–following a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, regular physical activity, quitting smoking and managing stress—can lower your risk for heart disease and may prevent current heart disease from worsening.
A Heart-Healthy Diet
To lower your risk of heart disease, follow these recommendations from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
- Balance calories with physical activity to manage weight
- Consume more of certain foods and nutrients such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood
- Consume fewer foods with sodium (salt), saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and refined grains
For helpful tips on incorporating these guidelines into your diet, see Heart-Healthy Cooking Tips. If you are at high risk for heart disease or already have heart disease, your first step should be to meet with a registered dietitian. Together with your health-care provider, your RD can help you lower your risk or improve your existing condition by developing a personalized eating and lifestyle plan. Find a Registered Dietitian.
For more information on heart health, visit the following sites:
Reviewed December 2012