Taking steps to maintain a healthy heart leads to improvements in your entire well-being. Cardiovascular disease can be devastating, but you may be able to reduce your risk by making heart-healthy food choices. It can take time to change your eating habits, which is why it helps to start with small changes that can build healthier eating styles.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and high fat intake are common factors that lead to heart disease. Sodium intake, or the amount of salt you consume, can seriously impact your heart health. A diet high in sodium causes your body to retain fluid, forcing your heart to pump harder, which increases your blood pressure. Salt can be found in most processed or pre-packaged foods, like hot dogs, sausage, deli meat and some cheeses. The best way to minimize your salt intake is to choose fresh foods as much as possible. Eating a lot of foods high in unhealthy fat and cholesterol causes plaque to build up in your blood vessels. Over time, your blood vessels become blocked and your heart has to pump harder to push through the blockage. That’s why it’s important to avoid foods with trans fats and minimize the amount of saturated fat in your diet. Trans fats can be found in some shortenings and saturated fat is often found in red meat, whole milk and butter. It’s also best to minimize your intake of fried food, alcohol and added sugar.
The recommended daily sodium intake for the average person is 2400mg.
As you minimize certain food items, you should start incorporating heart-healthy food options in their place. Heart-healthy eating involves consuming vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, lean meats, nuts, avocado and vegetable oils. Omega-3 is a heart healthy fat most often found in fatty fish such as salmon, trout or herring. When shopping for whole grain bread, check the food label to make sure it uses whole grain flour and look for at least three grams of fiber in each serving. Making healthy lifestyle choices can often be an overwhelming process, which is why the exceptional team of healthcare providers throughout the Cone Health Network is dedicated to educating the community on a healthy well-being and providing excellent treatment to patients dealing with conditions such as heart disease.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a nutritionist, you can call the Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Management Center at (336) 832-3236.
Nathan Frank is a clinical dietitian at Cone Health’s Annie Penn Hospital in Reidsville. He received his Bachelor of Science in nutrition with a minor in kinesiology from Pennsylvania State University. He also completed a dietetic internship at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.