Weight control and regular exercise are critical for keeping your heart in shape and the food you eat does matter. Heart disease may be a leading killer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself.
In addition to exercise, being careful about what you eat can help you lower cholesterol, control blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and maintain a healthy weight.
- Limiting saturated fats and cutting out trans fats entirely is important. Both types of fat raise your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol level, which can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.
- Unhealthy cholesterol levels increase your risk for heart disease, so keeping yours low is the key to a healthier heart. Your diet is central to controlling your cholesterol. Some foods can actually lower your cholesterol, while others only make matters worse.
- Salt can contribute to high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Reducing the salt in your food is a big part of a heart-healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends no more than about a teaspoon of salt a day for an adult.
- It is difficult to eat right for your heart when you’re eating out a lot, ordering in, or eating microwave dinners and other processed foods. You can learn to make quick, heart healthy meals at home. It’s easier and less time-consuming than you may think.
- A diet high in fibre can lower “bad” cholesterol and provide nutrients that can help protect against heart disease. By filling up on whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, you can get most of the fibre you’ll need, which means you’ll also be lowering your risk of heart disease.
- Gaining or carrying excess weight means that your heart must work harder, and this often leads to high blood pressure — a major cause of heart disease. Achieving a healthy body weight can reduce your risk of heart disease. Reducing portion sizes is a crucial step toward losing or maintaining a healthy weight.