By: Vetri Community Partnership’s Community Dietitian, Tara Bledsoe MS, RDN, LDN
Every year on September 29th, the world comes together to observe World Heart Day, a global campaign that aims to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease (CVD) and promote heart-healthy habits. Organized by the World Heart Federation, this day was established to remind people around the world of the importance of heart health. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally, responsible for over 17 million deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization. CVD includes various conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, and stroke. Many CVD risk factors are preventable through lifestyle changes, with nutrition playing a central role.
The food choices we make have a profound impact on our heart health. Here are some dietary strategies to help you decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease:
- Eat a rainbow:
Eat a rainbow when choosing fruits and vegetables to get a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that protect your heart. Eating the recommended 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables per day will make sure you get plenty of potassium which is an important mineral your body needs to help relax blood vessel walls and lower blood pressure.
- Cut back on salt, but not flavor:
Add flavor with herbs, spices, citrus and acids like vinegar to lower your intake of salt. When we have too much sodium in our blood, water moves into our blood vessels to keep us in balance. This increases the volume of blood moving through our blood vessels, which increases our blood pressure. In turn, our heart must work harder to pump blood throughout the body. When we regularly eat high-sodium foods, we increase our likelihood of high blood pressure and, over time, the likelihood of harming our heart.
- Choose heart-healthy fats:
Fats are an important part of a healthy eating pattern. Try to choose unsaturated fats more often, such as canola, olive, safflower, sesame, soybean, and sunflower oils, as these fats provide heart-healthy benefits. Replacing saturated fats found in red meat, full-fat dairy, and processed foods with unsaturated fats can help improve your cholesterol profile and reduce inflammation.
- Get more fiber:
Fiber protects your heart by lowering bad cholesterol and blood pressure, helping to reduce your risk for heart disease. Fiber is found in plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Eating more fiber-rich foods is a fantastic way to increase your heart health.