Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. About 92 million people in the United States have some form of heart/cardiovascular disease — that’s about 29 percent of the population. Many of these deaths and risk factors are preventable, and food choices have a big impact on your heart’s health, even if you have other risk factors.
Only a few risk factors, such as age, gender and family history, cannot be controlled. You can prevent and control many risk factors of heart disease, such as high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure with lifestyle changes and medications.
A healthy lifestyle — following a healthy eating plan, maintaining a healthy weight, regular physical activity, quitting smoking and managing stress — can lower your risk for heart disease and may prevent current heart disease from worsening.
A Heart-Healthy Diet
To lower your risk of heart disease, follow these recommendations directly from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
- “Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan.”
- “Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount.”
- “Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake.”
- “Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.”
- “Support healthy eating patterns for all.”
For helpful tips on incorporating these guidelines into your diet, see Heart-Healthy Cooking Tips. If you are at high risk for heart disease or already have heart disease, your first step should be to meet with a registered dietitian nutritionist. Together with your health-care provider, your RDN can help you lower your risk or improve your existing condition by developing a personalized eating and lifestyle plan.