Your heart is responsible for delivering blood to all parts of your body. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to nourish the cells, while veins transport oxygen-poor blood back to the heart. One of the many diseases resulting from an interruption of this complex process is heart disease.
There are several types of heart diseases, however, coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common. CAD develops when plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Over time, CAD can weaken the heart muscle, reducing blood flow. This may lead to heart failure, sometimes known as congestive heart failure (CHF), a serious condition where the heart is unable to efficiently pump enough blood to nourish your body’s cells. CAD can also lead to a sudden heart attack when there is a loss of blood supply to the heart.
Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of all ethnicities in the United States. There are many factors that contribute to one’s risk of heart disease, some of which are not in your control, such as age, sex, ethnicity, and family history. Fortunately, lifestyle changes and dietary modifications are factors that can be improved to help reduce your risk of heart disease.
LIFESTYLE TIPS FOR MANAGING HEART HEALTH
• Control your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and should be checked regularly. Diets high in salt are linked to hypertension (high blood pressure).
• Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control. High blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can clog your arteries, raising your risk of CAD and heart attack.
• Limit alcohol and quit smoking. Both drinking too much alcohol and smoking raise your blood pressure and put you at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
• Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. Physical exercise can help reduce your weight, strengthen your heart, and lower your lipid levels and blood pressure.
• Manage stress and get enough sleep. Stress is linked to heart disease in many ways. It can raise your blood pressure. Extreme stress can be a “trigger” for a heart attack.
• There are some risk factors such as gender, age, race that you cannot control. However, diet & lifestyle can be controlled & improved to help reduce your risk. Making small changes to what you eat will make a big difference to your heart health.
• Heart disease is a chronic condition, meaning it will not go away and will typically worsen over time. Three major risk factors for heart disease are high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high levels of fat in the blood (lipids). By controlling these factors, you can help keep your heart and arteries healthy.
• Fill your plate with heart-healthy foods with plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, fiber, and healthy fats found in avocado, nuts, and vegetable oils, while limiting unhealthy fats like trans fats, sodium, and added sugar.
KEY NUTRIENTS & FOODS THAT HELP ALLEVIATE SYMPTOMS
• DIETARY FIBER, found in many fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes includes the parts of foods your body is unable to digest or absorb. High-fiber foods may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and inflammation.
• MONOUNSATURATED and POLYUNSATURATED FATS found in avocado, nuts, and vegetable oils can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels in your blood which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Avoid saturated and trans fats, known to increase LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood and can reduce HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
• ANTIOXIDANT-RICH FOODS help reduce cell damage, keep cells healthy, and balance unstable free radicals. Free radicals promote inflammation which has been linked to heart disease and other chronic conditions. Bright, colorful fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, selenium, and zinc.
Selection of Our Meals That Are Suitable for This Condition
This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding diet.
This article has been reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Sayuri Barritt, MS. RD. and Dani Cuddeback, MS. RD. CD.