Heart disease ranks as the leading cause of death for both men and women worldwide. Research shows that 1 in 4 deaths are linked to heart disease. But, experts say it doesn’t have to be this way. Many of the risk factors that lead to cardiac related illnesses can be controlled through lifestyle choices, especially a healthy diet.
Steps to Improve Heart Health
- Eat a healthy breakfast: Start the day off right with a nutritious breakfast. It’s important because breakfast sets the tone for the food choices you’ll make all day—good or bad. A high protein breakfast, such as a bowl of oatmeal or a smoothie, will help you feel full longer. You’ll be less likely to crave sugary treats later in the morning.
- Watch your sodium: This can be a tricky one. Some sodium is necessary for maintaining proper fluid levels in the body, as well as for nerve and muscle function. Too much, however, contributes to high blood pressure and cardiac disease. And most western diets contain too much.
- Limit sweets: Most people enjoy a sweet treat now and then. The key is to consume them in moderation. Elevated blood sugar is linked to heart disease, especially in women. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons per day of added sugar for women, and 9 teaspoons per day for men.
- Consume foods with soluble fiber: Soluble fiber plays a role in overall health, including maintaining cholesterol and blood sugar. Both of these are important to heart health. The American Heart Association Eating Plan recommends a total intake of 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber a day with 6 to 8 grams of it being soluble fiber.
- Restrict processed foods: All too often Western diets are full of packaged and processed foods. While they might be convenient, most are high in sodium, trans fat, and calories. Too much sodium increases blood pressure putting you at a high risk for cardiac-related illnesses. Processed foods are usually high in calories and fat too, both of which contribute to weight gain and obesity—also known risk factors for heart disease.
- Limit alcohol: One surprising lifestyle choice that increases the risk of heart disease is consuming too much alcohol. While some studies say red wine might be good for your heart, there are limits. Ask your doctor for advice based on your personal medical history.
- Explore Mediterranean-style diets: People who reside in areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea seem to have lower incidences of a variety of diseases, including Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Learning more about the Mediterranean diet might help you adopt a healthier way of eating.
One final tip is to find a physician you feel comfortable talking with and see them on a regular basis. You’ll be more likely to stay on track with preventative tests and screening, like cholesterol, when you have an established relationship with a doctor.