Coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease, affects more than 20 million Americans. It’s the leading cause of death for both men and women — but the good news is that it can be prevented.
In fact, there are lots of ways to reduce your risk of heart disease — and you can start by reevaluating your diet. Kunal Patel, MD, and our team at NJ Cardiovascular Institute are ready to help.
We specialize in cardiovascular care. Our Heart Smart Program is designed to give you the tools you need to take control of your heart health.
Here’s what you need to know about your diet and heart health, including four of the best foods to eat to prevent heart disease.
How your diet affects heart health
Your diet plays a major role in heart health. The foods you eat every day can either positively or negatively affect your heart, and making healthier choices helps reduce your risk of heart disease.
For example, a diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats boosts heart health. Foods rich in fiber help lower your cholesterol levels, and foods high in antioxidants can help reduce inflammation and protect your heart from damage.
On the other hand, a diet high in calories, sugar, unhealthy fats, and salt can increase your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. All of these health conditions are considered major risk factors for heart disease.
Along with what you eat, how much you eat matters. Overeating can lead to weight gain, while regularly consuming large meals, particularly those high in fat and salt, may increase your blood pressure.
Eating smaller, more frequent meals made with healthier foods can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of heart disease. Pay attention to portion sizes, and try to limit your intake of processed foods, which are often high in calories, added sugar, salt, and additives.
The best foods to help prevent heart disease
The key to a heart-healthy diet is eating a variety of whole foods. Focus on eating fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats each day. If you’re not sure where to start, you can’t go wrong with these four foods:
1. Leafy greens
Leafy greens contain essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that can promote health and help prevent heart disease. Choose darker greens, like spinach and kale, often.
Berries, including blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, are rich in antioxidants called flavonoids. Flavonoids can help lower your blood pressure, reduce inflammation in your body, and improve blood vessel function. Berries are also low in calories and high in fiber, making them a great snack or dessert.
3. Fatty fish
Fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, are rich in omega-3 fats. Omega-3s offer a handful of heart-healthy benefits, including reducing inflammation, lowering triglyceride levels, and lowering blood pressure.
4. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds contain unsaturated fats, fiber, and protein. Eating nuts and seeds, like almonds and chia seeds, can reduce inflammation, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and improve blood sugar control.
However, nuts and seeds are also high in calories, so eat them in moderation. Consider eating a handful of nuts or seeds as a snack or sprinkle them on top of a salad for an added boost of nutrition.
When it comes to protecting your heart health, eating a healthy diet is essential. Learn more about switching to a heart-healthy diet at NJ Cardiovascular Institute. To get started, call one of our offices in Elizabeth, Lakewood, Paramus, or Secaucus, New Jersey, or send our team a message online.