Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. It costs us nearly $219 billion each year because of health care services, medicine costs, and a loss of productivity.1
80% of heart disease cases are preventable – so how can a preventable disease create such a negative health impact in our country?
A lot of it has to do with lifestyle. In general, a healthy diet and regular physical activity are the two best ways to fight and prevent cardiovascular diseases. Our Chief Medical Officer and Vice President at WellSpark, Dr. Wayne Rawlins, tells us the importance of having a healthy heart. “A healthy heart is central to overall good health. Embracing a healthy lifestyle – proper diet, exercise, avoiding obesity and not smoking – can prevent heart disease and lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke,” he says.
Celebrate the great things your heart does for you by implementing a healthy diet to your life. Dr. Rawlins suggests watching your portions, eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and avoiding high-fat, high-sodium “junk” foods. Here are some more heart healthy eating tips below, backed by the the American Heart Association.
- Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits. It doesn’t matter if they are frozen, canned, or fresh, as long as there are no added sugars or salts. Berries are rich in antioxidants, and eating them can reduce risk factors for heart disease. Leafy greens can help reduce blood pressure and improve arterial function.
- Replace all grains with fiber-rich whole grains. Whole wheat, brown rice, oats, and quinoa are whole grains. Eating three or more servings of whole grain can reduce your risk for heart disease by 22%2. “I’m a fan of brown rice myself,” Dr. Rawlins says. “Rice goes with everything and you can have it with every meal if you want.” Try incorporating brown rice into Gallo Pinto, a delicious rice and beans dish.
- Remove the skin on poultry and fish or buy it skinless and cook it in ways that doesn’t add saturated and trans-fat, like grilling. Buy the leanest cuts of meat available, and minimize processed red meats like bacon, ham, hotdogs, and deli meat.
- Eat non-fried fish at least twice a week. Look for different varieties of fish containing omega 3 fatty acids, which lower triglycerides, the risk of developing and irregular heartbeat, and the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Salmon, trout, and herring are great choices.
- Pick fat-free and low-fat dairy products.
- Try to avoid foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Limit saturated and trans-fat and replace them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats can decrease the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Reduce beverages and foods with added sugars.
- Cut back on sodium and cook with little to no salt. Reducing your sodium intake can lower your blood pressure.
- Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk for high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, some cancers, and other conditions. Women should have no more than one drink a day, and men should have no more than two drinks.
- Keep an eye on your portion sizes.
- Try out a heart healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, or a vegetarian/plant-based diet.
There is so much you can do to lower your risk for heart disease. “It is a lifestyle that will pay off in the long run in good health,” says Dr. Rawlins. It’s never too late to start making life-changing dietary alterations.
Read more about eating heart healthy:
- The 6 Best Diets for Heart Health – Healthline
- Heart Healthy Recipe Collection by The American Heart Association
- Look for The American Heart Association’s “Heart Check” at the grocery store to pick heart healthy foods in confidence.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). Heart Disease Facts. Retrieved January 1, 2021, from www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
 Link, R. (2018, March 5) 15 incredibly Heart Healthy Foods. Healthline. Retrieved January 1, 2021, from www.healthline.com/nutrition/heart-healthy-foods#section2