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Healthy Eating for Heart Health

Helping Your Heart Through Diet

You've just learned you are at risk for developing heart disease and that means, you need to alter your diet.

What's the hardest food to give up?

For many, it's ice cream, according to Liz Moore, RD, LDN, a dietitian with The CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. But surprisingly, she says, you can still enjoy some of your favorite foods, once in a while.

"Including a small portion of your favorite item on occasion may prevent you from overindulging more frequently," says Moore, who suggests patients try some low fat yogurt, or fruit to satisfy a regular sweet tooth instead.

The keys to helping the heart through diet are simple: cut down on salt, eat less saturated fat found in meats and regular dairy, less trans fat found in fried and baked goods, and eat more whole grains through the right breads, pastas and cereals.

"Even something as simple as adding a quarter cup of unsalted nuts will add fiber, healthy fat and lower LDL or bad cholesterol," says Moore. "Also, switching from butter to olive oil when cooking will help."

For those who are overweight, especially those who have excess fat in the abdominal area, dropping a few pounds can make a difference. Moore says even a small amount of weight loss - 5-10 percent, may have an impact on risk factors like cholesterol and blood pressure.
For many patients, diet, exercise and weight loss alone may not be enough to control risk factors. Medications may be needed. However, the evidence is clear: the sooner you adopt a healthier lifestyle, the better the chances are you'll keep heart disease at bay.

"A lot of people are afraid of change," Moore explains. "But you don't have to make all the changes at once and even small changes will make a difference."

Healthy Eating Tips from the American Heart Association

The best way to help lower your blood cholesterol level is to eat less saturated fat and cholesterol, control your weight and walk or do another physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day.

Our plan is based on these simple steps:

  • Use up at least as many calories as you take in.
  • Be physically active.
  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week, if not all.
  • Eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods.
  • Eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits.
  • Choose whole-grain, high-fiber foods.
  • Eat fish at least twice a week.
  • Eat less of the nutrient-poor foods.
  • Limit how much saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol you eat.
  • Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat.
  • Select fat-free, 1 percent fat, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.
  • Cut back on foods high in dietary cholesterol.
  • Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars.
  • Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
  • Follow the American Heart Association recommendations when you eat out.
  • Read the nutrition facts label and ingredients list.
  • Avoid use of and exposure to tobacco products.

Above content provided by The American Heart Association in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Contact Information

CardioVascular Institute at
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215

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