According to the CDC, heart disease is a leading cause of death in both men and women. An estimated 610,000 deaths per year, in the US alone, are due to heart disease. We have no control over non-modifiable risks for heart disease, such as gender, age and family history. However, it is important to realize that there are lifestyle modifications that you can make to reduce your risk for heart disease. The following are modifiable risks for heart disease:
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
- Poor diet
Having an unhealthy diet plays a role in more than one of these modifiable risk factors. So, what are some things you can change in your diet to reduce your risk?
- Reduce intake of highly processed foods. These convenience foods are often high in sugar, salt and fat, while lacking in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Increase intake of fruit and vegetables, which are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.
- Reduce intake of sugar, including soda, candy, cookies, pastries, etc. Try heart healthy 70%+ dark chocolate for a sweet treat.
- Include sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout and sardines.
Think of food as tasty medicine. Filling your plate with nutrient-dense foods will give your body the tools to reduce your risk for heart disease.
One final thought: physical activity is just as important as diet. Physical activity is good for more than just cardiovascular health. It has a positive impact on mental health, bone and joint health, weight, sleep, and even sex!