Cardiovascular disease (also referred to as heart disease) is a term that encompasses many conditions of the heart, all of which affect the heart's ability to fill with blood or pump blood to the rest of the body.
If you have been diagnosed with any of these conditions, your doctor may have advised you to follow a heart healthy diet.
You can lower your risk for cardiovascular disease and slow the progression of current cardiovascular disease by making simple lifestyle changes. Following a heart healthy diet, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco products and managing stress can all be used as prevention and treatment options for cardiovascular disease.
Heart healthy nutrition along with a healthy lifestyle can help you prevent cardiovascular disease and improve your lipid profile (cholesterol and triglyceride levels). The foods recommended on a heart healthy eating plan can help you achieve a healthy weight, reduce your LDL or "bad" cholesterol some can even help improve your HDL or "good" cholesterol.
Saturated and trans fats have both been linked to cardiovascular disease. Research has shown that these two fats can increase total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol. Limit sources of saturated fat, which include high-fat meats, poultry skin, whole milk, cream and butter and avoid trans fat, which is found in stick margarine, shortening, fried foods, products made with hydrogenated oils
Although research is pending regarding dietary cholesterol and heart health, it is still recommended to reduce your total cholesterol intake to 200 milligrams or less per day. Sources include egg yolk (limit 3 per week), fatty meat, whole milk, cheese, shrimp, lobster and crab.
Unlike saturated and trans fat, omega-3 monounsaturated fats are good for you heart. Omega 3's have been shown to help lower cholesterol, lower high blood pressure and help prevent heart disease. Aim to eat fish 2 to 3 times per week and also include more walnuts, canola oil and olive oil.
Fiber is an essential component in a heart healthy meal plan. Fiber helps remove excess cholesterol, and it can also help with weight management. Aim to eat 20-30 grams per day by including breads with at least 2 grams of fiber per serving and cereals with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Make it your goal to incorporate legumes, whole grains and five to nine servings for fruits and veggies each day.
Sodium affects your blood pressure by holding on to extra water, which in turn makes your heart work harder. Choose products that fit into a 2000 milligram plan. This means choosing products that contain less than 300 milligrams of sodium per serving and putting down the salt shaker.