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Heart Healthy Diet Tips

As we move through the holidays and think about what’s to come in the New Year, you may have started thinking about resolutions. While many people decide to pursue health-related goals, like diet and exercise, consider taking it a step further by following a heart healthy diet.

The Facts about Heart Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women of most races and ethnicities. In fact, one person dies every 36 seconds due to cardiovascular disease, equaling roughly 655,000 Americans every year. Although high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are risk factors, other conditions and lifestyle choices can put you at risk as well. These include diabetes, obesity, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and excessive alcohol consumption. While it may not be possible to control all risk factors, certain lifestyle choices like following a heart healthy diet can help lower your risk of heart disease.

How to Follow a Heart Healthy Diet

Following a diet doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective. Improving your heart health can be done by making a series of small, simple choices and changes when it comes to your diet.

  • Be aware of your calories – eat & exercise accordingly. Simply understanding how many calories you should be consuming to maintain your weight is a great place to start. While the nutrition information on labels is based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet, your body may require more or less, which will depend on your age, gender, and physical activity. Do your best to not consume more calories than you know you burn daily. If you want to burn more to encourage weight loss, increase the amount and intensity of your activity – aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.
  • Consume a variety of nutritious foods. It’s essential to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. This includes foods with minerals, protein, and whole grains. A balanced, heart healthy diet should include a variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, skinless poultry and fish, nuts, and non-tropical vegetable oils. Try to limit saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sweets, and sugar-sweetened drinks. If you do eat red meat, select the leanest cuts available.
  • Don’t smoke. While this isn’t necessarily part of a diet plan, it is essential to maintaining or improving your heart health. Smoking includes any tobacco or nicotine products, such as cigarettes and vapes. Whenever possible, try to also avoid exposure to secondhand smoke or vapor. For help breaking the habit, visit the American Heart Association website for tips and more.

Being Heart Healthy on a Daily Basis

Taking an extra moment to think about the food choices you make every day can help you make the changes you need to follow a more heart-healthy diet. The American Heart Association suggests the following recommendations for a daily diet:

  • Eat a variety of fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables and fruits without added sauces, salt, and sugars
  • Choose fiber-rich whole grains
  • Consume fish or poultry that has been prepared in a healthy way, without added saturated and trans fats
  • Eat fish at least twice a week, particularly kinds that contain omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, trout, or herring
  • Use fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) dairy products
  • Don’t eat foods with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils
  • Replace saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
  • Cut back or eliminate beverages and foods with added sugars
  • Choose foods with less sodium, and use little to no salt when preparing food
  • Drink alcohol in moderation – no more than 1 drink per day for women, and no more than two drinks per day for men
  • Follow the recommendations when dining out, and watch your portion sizes

For more tips on following a heart healthy diet, visit Midwest Express Clinic today. We will help you monitor your own heart health and discuss ways you can help lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.