Smart food choices can help prevent heart disease

Thump-thump…Thump-thump. Your heart beats about 100,000 times a day. And if you want to keep it that way, paying attention to what you eat can make a big difference.

If you’re thinking about improving your diet to keep your heart healthy, start by answering these two questions:

  1. How often do you eat French fries, red meats, pizza, pastries, and processed foods?
  2. How often do you have sugary drinks?

If you eat a lot of these foods, you’re at risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other health problems. These conditions can damage your arteries, which can lead to a heart attack, stroke, and death. Consider this:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It claims the lives of about 659,000 people a year.1
  • Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a heart attack.2 Some recover. Some require surgery and long-term therapy. And many don’t survive.
  • About half of all adults in the U.S have some form of heart disease.3 But it’s largely preventable with healthy lifestyle habits, starting with your diet.

Eat heart-healthy foods

Choosing the right foods can help prevent heart disease. If you already have heart disease, or you’re at risk, improving your diet can help, too. And it’s easy.

Research shows eating more plant-based foods and less junk food can improve heart health.4

Ready to give your heart some love to keep the beat? Eat more of these heart-healthy foods:

1. Fruits and vegetables

At meal time, fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

Brightly-colored fruits, berries, and leafy-green vegetables are best. They have high levels of antioxidants that can help prevent plaque build-up in your arteries.

Eating more fruits and vegetables and less junk food can help prevent a heart attack or stroke.

  • Aim for 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

2. Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds contain healthy, unsaturated fat. This kind of fat helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, which can protect your heart from disease.

Nuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients that can improve the health of your arteries and reduce the risk for blood clots.

  • A handful of nuts (about 1½ ounces) per day can help keep your heart healthy.

3. Legumes
Or if you prefer…”Beans, beans the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more you….”

Beans or legumes like black beans, kidney beans, and peas, contain the highest amount of fiber of any food group.

High-fiber foods can lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk for diabetes, and curb hunger to avoid weight gain.

  • Women need at least 25 grams of dietary fiber per day for best health.5
  • Men need at least 38 grams per day.

4. Whole Grains
Whole grains contain bran, fiber, and other nutrients that help lower blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides (or fat) in the blood. This is good for heart health.

  • Eat at least 3 servings of whole grains per day.

A variety of grains is best, especially ones high in water-soluble fiber. Try:

  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Whole-grain cereal, breads, and pastas
  • Quinoa

Eating a plant-based diet is the best way to reduce your risk for heart disease. Other lifestyle habits to improve heart health include regular exercise, a healthy weight, stress management and limiting alcohol and tobacco.

If you’re not used to eating for heart health, start small with a healthy snack. Gradually add more fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains to your eating plan. Then keep it up to keep the beat.

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