Heart disease is the number-one killer of men and women in the U.S., but a healthy diet can help reduce your risk in five ways.
Food has a huge effect on the heart. A healthy diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, skinless poultry, lean meats, eggs, beans, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products keeps fatty plaque from building up in the arteries, for instance. March is National Nutrition Month, making this a great time to revamp your diet.
Here are five things to keep in mind for a healthy heart:
- Maintain a healthy weight: If you’re overweight, you’re at higher risk for high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes, according to the American Heart Association. Calculate your body mass index, or BMI. Below 25 is ideal.
- Reduce “bad” cholesterol: Too much LDL cholesterol (200 mg/dL or higher) causes blocked arteries. Limit foods with trans fat (processed foods, stick or hard margarine), high cholesterol (liver, pork, giblets) and saturated fat (whole milk dairy products, regular mayonnaise, fatty cuts of meat, butter, lard, doughnuts, and sausage).
- Increase “good” cholesterol: High levels of HDL cholesterol may protect against heart disease. Eat more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (vegetable oils, fish, and nuts).
- Keep blood sugar in check: Aim for a fasting blood sugar below 100 to avoid diabetes or pre-diabetes. Avoid added sugars (corn syrup, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, honey, molasses, raw sugar and caramel).
- Manage blood pressure: Hypertension is the most significant risk factor for heart disease. Reduce your risk by limiting alcohol and foods with added sodium (salt and baking soda).