Boost Heart Health

A healthy diet has a significant impact on many aspects of health, including heart disease. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and fish can significantly lower blood pressure, reduce body fat, and support healthy cholesterol levels.

Other lifestyle factors that contribute to heart disease include a sedentary lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption, and an irregular eating schedule. UT Southwestern physicians can help patients create healthy habits that they can sustain long term.

1. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

A heart-healthy diet is high in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats (like those found in olive, canola, soy and avocado). It also limits sodium and saturated and trans fats.

Fruits are a great source of antioxidants like anthocyanins and flavonoids, as well as vitamins C and E. They are also low in sugar, and contain fiber to help lower blood pressure.

2. Drink More Water

Dehydration puts extra strain on the heart, especially if you are already overweight or have a medical condition such as high blood pressure. So drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your heart happy and healthy.

UT Southwestern’s General Cardiology and Preventive Cardiology teams can help you create healthy habits you can stick with. We offer a variety of diet and exercise tips to help support your heart health goals.

3. Get Regular Exercise

Exercise can help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, keep body weight under control and improve mood. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.

Regular exercise increases the amount of oxygen that your heart pumps and improves muscle strength, which can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Even everyday activities like walking, climbing stairs and mowing the lawn count as cardiovascular exercise.

4. Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking significantly reduces a person’s risk of heart attack, blood clots and other cardiovascular problems. It also helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Smoking exposes your body to a toxic mix of chemicals that damage arteries, lungs and reproductive organs. It can also increase diabetes risks and lead to sudden blood clots, which cause heart attacks and stroke. Smoking also increases the risk of lung and throat cancer.

5. Cut Back on Salt

A diet high in salt increases the risk for heart disease and hypertension. Try to cut back on processed and fast foods and replace salt with herbs, spices, lemon or lime juice and low-fat seasoning blends.

Buying fresh and frozen vegetables, fish, skinless poultry and whole grains instead of those time-saving prepared meals at the grocery store may help too. Regular exercise also helps keep blood pressure under control.

6. Eat More Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Researchers have found that omega-3 fatty acids—including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA and DHA)—can lower blood pressure, resting heart rate and the risk of developing metabolic syndrome. These fats also help reduce triglycerides.

To get more omega-3s, eat oily fish at least twice a week or foods fortified with them. You can also try consuming walnuts, flaxseeds and canola oil.

7. Eat More Whole Grains

Research shows that whole grains help lower LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. Try adding brown rice, quinoa and wheat berries to your meals; and when shopping for bread, pasta and cereal, make sure the word “whole” appears first on the ingredients list.

Carbohydrates like bread, cereal, starchy vegetables and some fruit are a necessary part of a healthy diet. Just make sure you choose whole grains over refined sugars.

8. Eat More Lean Meat

The best meat options are skinless poultry, lean beef and fish. Choose cuts such as pork loin, tenderloin and ham, which are lower in fat. Fish is rich in protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Avoid fried foods, and grill, bake or poach your meat to reduce its fat content. Limit deli and processed meats like sausage, bacon and hot dogs.

9. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

The right foods can reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. Aim for four to six servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Eat berries (like strawberries, raspberries and blackberries) for antioxidants and fiber, or try apples (which have prebiotics that help prevent heart disease).

Also, eat plenty of whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, nuts, beans and nontropical vegetable oils. Limit red meat, sugary drinks and salt.

10. Eat More Nuts

Eating a handful of nuts daily can lower your cholesterol, reduce inflammation and prevent blood clots. Nuts are rich in protein, fibre, unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids and plant sterols.

Choose dry roasted and unsalted nuts, or nut butters with minimal processing. However, keep in mind that nuts are high in calories. A small handful is the recommended serving. If you’re trying to lose weight, limit your nut intake.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.