What You Eat Makes a Difference

If you’re diagnosed with heart disease, it’s important to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Even if you don’t need to lose weight, the nutritional quality of the food you eat can affect the health of your heart.

Studies have found benefits to several different approaches to eating for people working to manage heart disease or lower the risk of developing heart disease:

A primarily plant-based diet: Some studies have found that eating mostly low-fat, plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, and plant proteins like soy, can lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, two concerns in heart disease. This approach also encourages you to eat whole, minimally processed foods.

Did you know that 9 in 10 kids eat too much sodium, while just 1 in 5 eat enough fruits and vegetables? Let’s help our kids stay off the road to heart disease

Exercise to fight heart disease

If you’ve had a recent heart attack or stroke or are living with heart failure, atrial fibrillation, or other serious forms of heart disease, it is essential that you talk with your cardiologist about what types and level of exercise are safe and appropriate for you before starting an exercise plan.

With your doctor’s clearance, work up to 30 minutes of moderate, aerobic exercise, such as walking, water aerobics, or biking a day. Exercise not only helps you maintain a healthy weight, it can also lower your LDL or “bad” cholesterol and blood sugar and increase your HDL cholesterol, which has a protective effect on the heart. Even if you’re not ready for 30 minutes of exercise a day, studies have found that even 10 minutes a day can have a positive effect on heart health, especially if you’re usually sedentary.

Other healthy habits that can affect heart disease

There are several other steps you can take to improve your heart health, including:

Getting about eight hours of good quality sleep per night

Effectively managing stress

Drinking alcohol only moderately

Not smoking

Have you seen What The Health yet? It’s an important documentary about our health, our food system, and who profits from keeping us sick. It’s streaming now on Netflix.

If you need additional guidance, ask your doctor to recommend a nutritionist or physical therapist who specializes in working with people living with heart disease.

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