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Fuel your health: Your guide to a heart healthy diet

Fuel your health: Your guide to a heart healthy diet

It’s a fact that we don’t have the best heart health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in Louisiana and nationwide. Having heart disease isn’t inevitable, and a heart healthy diet can help you reduce your risk of heart disease.

The numbers are startling. Every 33 seconds, someone in the U.S. dies of cardiovascular disease, adding up to nearly 700,000 deaths each year.

While it’s common, heart disease is also largely preventable. You can lower your risk of heart disease by eating a healthy diet and practicing other healthy lifestyle habits. Our West Jefferson Medical Center team fills you in below.

The basics of a heart healthy diet

What goes into a heart healthy diet? For one thing, hit the reset button on how you think about healthy eating. Diets come and go, so instead, think in terms of sustainable heart healthy eating habits.

Eat the rainbow. Fill at least half your plate at meals with vegetables and fruit in a variety of colors. Each hue includes different nutrients that benefit your heart.

Go green. While we mentioned above that all colors of fruits and veggies are good for you, the green variety can be particularly beneficial. Include portions of leafy greens, such as kale, spinach and collard greens, in your meals regularly for vitamins A, C and K, folate, and iron.

Choose whole-grain foods. Eating grains that haven’t been as refined, such as oatmeal, brown rice and whole-grain bread, can help reduce your blood pressure and total and LDL cholesterol levels. In turn, that reduces your risk of heart disease.

Find the right fats. Yes, there is such a thing as healthy fat. Consume unsaturated fats found in olives, nuts and avocados. Fatty fish, such as salmon, striped bass and sardines, are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are particularly beneficial for your heart and overall health.

Think lean. Protein plays a vital role in keeping your body healthy and strong, but choose the right kind of protein. Look for options with no or low saturated fat, such as skinless chicken, turkey or fish, or nonmeat protein sources, such as beans, eggs or nuts. How you prepare them matters, too, so bake or grill meat instead of frying.

Other ways to give your heart health a boost

Beyond heart healthy eating habits, what else can you do? Consider healthy lifestyle habits as self-care for your heart.

If it’s been a while since you had a checkup with your primary care provider, start there. Regular visits with a PCP can help you keep tabs on your health and identify any risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure.

You’re probably familiar with the other basics of a heart healthy lifestyle. Every week, aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking fast, playing pickleball or doing water aerobics. Strengthen muscles with sit-ups, pushups or weights twice a week. Prioritize getting between seven and nine hours of quality sleep each night, too.

If you smoke, work with your provider on a plan for quitting. Smoking damages the blood vessels, which impacts how blood flows to and from your heart. (Vaping isn’t any healthier, either!)

If you drink, keep your consumption to a minimum. That’s one drink per day maximum for women and two for men.

Finally, if you were diagnosed with any medical conditions during that checkup we mentioned earlier, take steps to manage them properly. That may mean taking prescribed medications, or your provider may recommend the lifestyle habits we’ve just talked through. Either way, staying on top of other conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, lowers your risk of heart disease.

When your heart’s health is on the line, you want the peace of mind knowing it’s in good hands. Learn more about how our West Jefferson Medical Center cardiovascular specialists can help.