According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. It’s said that one in four deaths is attributed to heart disease.
The good news is that it can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle. Eating the right foods, exercising, and not smoking are some of the recommendations often heard to decrease the risk of heart disease.
Diets high in fiber, antioxidants, healthy fats, and lean protein are some ways to promote heart health. Avoiding processed foods, alcohol, and salt also plays a crucial role in preventing heart disease.
Following the proper diet for your lifestyle can help decrease inflammation, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other risk factors that can lead to heart disease.
In this article, I will explore the top five diets that can help prevent or manage heart disease.
Nutrition and Heart Disease
There is a strong link between heart disease and nutrition. The daily choices you make can influence your heart health. There are four areas you need to pay close attention to if you want to prevent heart disease (or manage it).
- Don’t smoke. It’s said that smoking can increase the risk of heart disease by 50%. Breaking the habit of smoking is one of the best things that you can do for your heart. While challenging, you can get out of the habit with the right system and support.
- Lead an active lifestyle. Physical activity and exercise can make your heart stronger. According to the WHO, the goal is 150 minutes of light to moderate exercise weekly. However, exercise is not the only important thing. The daily movement also plays a crucial role. If you spend your day sitting down, it can be bad for your heart. Make sure you are moving every 30-60 minutes for one minute.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight or having extra inches around your waist can put you at risk of developing heart disease.
- Follow a healthy diet. The type of foods you add will be essential in managing heart disease. Having a more natural diet is going to be more beneficial than having processed foods. However, one of the most common questions is: which is the best diet for heart disease?
Let’s talk about the best diets to manage and prevent heart disease.
Best Diets For Heart Disease
1. Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet is one of the best ways to help support your heart. You don’t focus on portion sizes or calories but more on the type of foods you eat.
It emphasizes consuming natural foods and a minimal amount of processed foods. You include foods like nuts, seeds, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fish. You can have small amounts of eggs, chicken, dairy, and wine.
Research shows that people who follow a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of heart disease by 40%.
2. DASH Diet
DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It was created to manage and stop high blood pressure. Like the Mediterranean diet, it doesn’t focus on portions or calories but on the type of foods you eat.
It recommends the same foods in a Mediterranean diet (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats), with the addition of controlling your sodium intake. The average person consumes over 3,400 mg of sodium per day. On the DASH diet, you limit the sodium intake to 2,300 mg and can even get as low as 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
Studies show this type of intervention can reduce the risk of heart disease by 20%.
3. Plant-based Diet
A plant-based diet removes all or most of the animal products. Vegans remove all animal products (including foods like honey and gelatin), while vegetarians might include certain animal products like dairy and eggs.
This type of eating plan emphasizes consuming whole-natural foods. Consuming plant-based foods increases your fiber, antioxidant, and healthy fat consumption.
A study showed that people who follow a plant-based diet could decrease the risk of heart disease by more than 50%. However, if you are following a plant-based diet full of processed foods and refined grains, you won’t have the same benefits as a natural plant-based diet.
4. Low-Carb Diet
Low carb diets focus on reducing your can intake. A low-carb diet could give you 20-40% of your calories from carbs, while a ketogenic diet represents 5-10% of your calories from carbs. Reducing the carb intake means you increase the consumption of fats and protein.
This diet works by reducing the risk factors that affect heart disease like obesity, cholesterol levels, glucose levels, and blood pressure.
However, not all low-carb diets are healthy for your heart. If you have a high consumption of animal fats (butter, sour cream, mayo, and fatty meats), it might not be as beneficial to your heart if you base your fat consumption on plant-based fats (nuts, seeds, and oils).
5. TLC Diet
Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) is a diet intended to reduce the risk of heart disease. It gives you certain guidelines for you to follow. Some of them are:
- Limit your saturated fat intake to 7% of your daily calories.
- Aim to get 25-30% of your calories coming from fats.
- Have no more than 200 mg of cholesterol per day.
- Eat 10-25 grams of fiber per day.
- Consume 2 grams of plant sterols per day.
- Exercise 30 minutes per day.
Studies show that the TLC diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease by 10%.
Also Read: Top Health Conditions Affecting Americans
Also Read: 9 Superfoods to Eat After 50
What Do They Have in Common?
They all have different approaches, but what do they have in common. Here is a summary of the things these diets have in common.
- High consumption of healthy fats. Plant-based fat options like nuts, seeds, olives, and oils can reduce the risk of heart disease. In fact, nut consumption can decrease the risk by between 10 and 20%. These foods provide omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation.
Also Read: 12 Must-Have Foods That Are Very High in Omega-3s
- High fiber intake. Consumption of 10-25 grams of fiber can help reduce cholesterol levels and improve your gut health.
- Low consumption of processed foods. Reducing sugars, refined grains, and ultra-processed foods can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Don’t focus on portions. Most of these diets focus on your hunger and satiety signals. They recommend understanding how your body feels and ensuring you eat until you are 70-80% complete instead of following portion sizes.