Poor diet and the lack of physical activity are the most common risk factors for cardiovascular disease because they often lead to being overweight or obese. By choosing a heart-healthy diet, you can reduce your chance of developing atherosclerosis, which is the arterial blockage that eventually leads to heart disease.
Here are some diet tips that will help you maintain a healthy heart:
- Limit saturated fat and sugar. This will help reduce total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol. This can lower blood pressure, decrease your risk of developing diabetes and help you maintain an appropriate weight. Choose non-fat or fat-free options whenever possible. For example, have baked potatoes instead of French fries, choose low-fat dressings, and skip the cheese on your burger. In addition, try to cook with oils that are low in saturated fat such as olive, canola, corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed, peanut and sesame. Stay away from high saturated fat oils and shortenings, including palm and coconut.
- Avoid any food that contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. These are called “trans fat” and are extremely unhealthy. These are mainly found in pastries, piecrusts, biscuits, pizza dough, cookies, crackers, stick margarines and shortening.
- Limit your salt intake.
- Don’t skip breakfast. People who eat a healthy breakfast tend to eat less during the rest of the day, have lower cholesterol, and are able to concentrate better at work and at home.
- Read food labels. Avoid high-calorie, high-fat, high-sodium snack foods or fast foods.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. As they are high in vitamins and minerals.
- Eat out less often and have fewer packaged foods. Home-cooked meals tend to be lower in calories, salt and fat than restaurant-cooked or packaged foods. Drink less alcohol. Drinking more than two drinks per day can raise blood pressure and increases your calorie intake, which in turn, may increase your risk of developing heart disease.
- Eat slowly. Pay attention to how you feel, don’t have seconds unless you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Despite what your mother may have said, you do not always need to finish everything on your plate.