In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death. The term is an umbrella category that includes congenital heart disease (CHD) and coronary artery disease (CAD), the 2 main forms of heart disease. While congenital heart disease is present at birth and not possible to prevent, coronary artery disease is avoidable. People’s lifestyles and dietary choices can contribute to plaque buildup within the arteries. Over time, blockages form and can cause heart attacks, angina, arrhythmia, and even heart failure. Learning to make better dietary choices low in fat is essential to improve health outcomes.
Avoid trans fats
Available in both natural and artificial formats, trans fat or trans-fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat. The substance can be found in meats, dairy, and fried foods. While trans fat found in meat and dairy is less of a concern because the format is natural, artificial trans fat found in fried foods is more troublesome. Research has consistently shown that the fats found in vegetable oils are dangerous and can increase a person’s risk of heart disease. Artificially derived trans fats can elevate cholesterol and inflammation, both of which can contribute to heart disease.
Put down the salt
To improve the taste of food, many people reach for a seasoning ingredient called salt. While tasty, the powdery white substance can also contribute to heart problems. Consider that sodium can hide in a wide range of dishes and foods. So, even when a person isn’t purposely adding salt to foods, consumption levels can exceed daily recommendations. The average American consumes more than 3,400mg of sodium instead of the 2,300mg recommended daily. Plot twist, bread is one of the top sources of hidden salt.
Limit red meat consumption
For many people, red meat from beef, lamb, and pork constitutes a significant portion of the diet. Again, eating too much of a good thing can be harmful. Specifically, a diet rich in red meat can increase a person’s chances of heart disease. Meats are high in saturated fats, which can contribute to high cholesterol. While completely removing red meat is unnecessary, consider limiting portions. Likewise, opt for leaner cuts of meat when shopping for beef, lamb, and pork.
Mind the sugar
Like salt, sugar is another item that in excess, can contribute to a wide host of issues. While many people only associate the powdery confection with diabetes, sugar is also a sneaky contributor to high blood pressure (BP) and heart disease. As with any other food, moderation is key. The occasional sweet treat won’t derail a person’s health goals. However, a diet heavy in foods loaded with sugar can encourage weight gain and ultimately trigger high blood pressure.
Get serious about dietary choices
Moderation is key when people are trying to create a heart-healthy diet. Instead of completely avoiding foods, experts recommend occasionally enjoying treats but sticking to a balanced diet rich in produce, lean meats, and whole grains. While some people might opt for the Mediterranean diet, other individuals may focus on controlling portions and avoiding unhealthy food choices. People diagnosed with heart disease who are unsure of best practices for picking healthy foods should speak with a registered dietician (RD) or physician.