Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States, resulting in approximately every 1 in 4 deaths. Poor lifestyle choices can increase the risk of developing heart disease. Get a good start on your New Year’s resolution by creating heart healthy habits to protect your heart.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends aiming for a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein, focusing on a lifestyle higher in fresh whole foods and less processed foods as they are often higher in sodium, fat, and added sugar. Sodium, fat and added sugar in excess amounts can be detrimental to heart health. Sodium is important for our bodies to function but too much can be harmful, causing high blood pressure or fluid retention. More than 75% of sodium consumed is estimated to come from processed and restaurant foods. The average American consumes more than 3,400mg of sodium daily; the AHA recommends 1,500mg or less of sodium daily.
The types and amount of fat consumed can help lower cholesterol levels. Saturated fat is usually found in animal proteins such as marbled beef and pork, whole milk, and butter, which raises bad cholesterol levels. Choosing lean proteins and low-fat dairy, can help reduce saturated fat intake. It helps to choose more unsaturated fats by selecting nuts, seeds, peanut butter, olive or canola oil. It is best to replace saturated fats to help lower cholesterol levels.
Maintaining a healthy weight is another large part of having a strong heart. Added sugars contribute calories but zero nutrients from food. In the last 3 decades, the amount of added sugars consumed by Americans has greatly increased, contributing to the obesity pandemic. Most of the added sugar in the American diet comes from sugar-sweetened beverages. The average American consumes on average, 17 teaspoons of added sugar and the recommendation from AHA is 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men.
Small changes toward a healthy lifestyle can make all the difference for your heart. Aim to choose more fresh and less processed foods to limit excessive sodium. Choose heart healthy unsaturated fats and less saturated. Limit refined carbohydrates, especially sugar, sweets, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Start the New Year by making heart healthy changes now to protect your heart.