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Love Your Heart, Love Your Food: Four Steps to Better Heart Health

Contributors: Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN

Published: February 25, 2022

Reviewed: April 12, 2021

Love Your Heart Love Your Food
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Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. Many of these deaths and risk factors for the disease 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. Talk to your doctor to find out if you are at high risk for heart disease.

You can help prevent and control many risk factors of heart disease, such as high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure with lifestyle changes and medicines. Healthy food choices and an active lifestyle can have a big impact on your heart's health.

If you are at high risk for heart disease or already have heart disease, meet with a registered dietitian nutritionist. Together with your health care provider, your RDN can help you lower your risk or improve your existing condition by developing a personalized eating and lifestyle plan.

Just a few steps and you can be on your way to a healthier heart!

Step 1: Make Healthy Food Choices

Making healthy food choices starts by eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods. Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fatty fish. Aim to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables and eat salmon, lake trout, albacore tuna, mackerel or sardines twice a week. Legumes — including beans and lentils — are a great sources of fiber and also pack a punch of protein. They are heart-healthy and very affordable, too. Choose whole-grain foods most often and minimize refined grain foods.

Eat less foods that have added salt, sugars and fats. Reduce salt intake by preparing foods at home so you can control the amount of sodium in your meals. As you prepare meals, use as little salt as possible. You can cut at least half the salt from most recipes. As you shop, select reduced-sodium or no-salt-added canned soups and vegetables. Steer clear of trans fats and limit your intake of saturated fat.

Step 2: Be Active

Regular, moderate physical activity lowers blood pressure and helps your body control stress and weight. Be physically active in your own way. Start by doing what you can, at least 10 minutes at a time. Always check with your physician before beginning a workout regimen.

Step 3: Manage Stress

Yoga, table tennis, walking, jogging, meditation, journaling, dancing wildly to the oldies — whatever works for you, figure out a way to reduce life’s stresses in a healthful way!

Step 4: Don’t Smoke

Smoking increases your risk for heart disease. If you smoke, quit.

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