Cardiovascular Disease, including heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease, occurs when clogged arteries hinder the blood supply to the organs. Clogged arteries result from a combination of damage to the arteries and plaque buildup in the arteries. Cardiovascular disease risk levels, which are modifiable, include abnormal lipid levels such as cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle. The non-modifiable risk factor of cardiovascular disease is family history. Addressing all the modifiable risk factors is important to prevent cardiovascular disease.
A healthy heart diet is critical, especially if you have risk factors or cardiovascular disease. Below are foods with proven benefits for these chronic conditions.
|Food||Nutrient Value||Proven Benefits|
|Whole grains (buckwheat, barley, sorghum, quinoa, amaranth, oatmeal, corn, millet)||Rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals||Lowers LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides. Lowers risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including heart disease. Maintains steady blood sugar level and healthy weight. Risk of certain types of cancer.|
|Green leafy vegetables||Rich in Vitamin K1||Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease caused by clogged arteries, such as heart disease, stroke, peripheral artery disease (Caution: If you are taking Warfarin, you need to eat the same amount of Vitamin K everyday as recommended by your doctor). Improves bone health.|
|Tomato||Rich in potassium, lycopene, Vitamin K||Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease caused by clogged arteries, such as heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.|
|Avocado||Lowers bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol.|
|Beans (kidney, pinto, black bean)||Rich in fiber, vitamins, magnesium, potassium||Improves blood cholesterol. Maintains steady blood sugar level. Maintains healthy weight.|
|Apple, Pear||Rich in fiber, Vitamin C, pectin, polyphenols||Lowers risk of death from heart disease.|
|Citrus fruits (orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime)||Rich in fiber, potassium, calcium, B Vitamins, copper, anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, such as flavonoids and carotenoids||Improves blood cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood vessel function.|
|Pomegranate||Rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, potassium, fiber, potent phytochemicals, such as anthocyanin and resveratrol||Helps keep blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol in check.|
|Stone fruits (cherry, peach, apricot, plum)||Rich in fiber, Vitamin C, potassium, variety of phytochemicals||Reduces average blood sugar. Improves cholesterol and blood pressure. Eating cherries reduces pain and soreness after physical activity. Reduces risk of gout attacks with cherry intake.|
|Berries (strawberry, cranberry, blueberry, blackberry)||Rich in fiber, Vitamin C, phytochemicals, such as anthocyanins and ellagic acid||Lowers risk of heart disease. Lowers risk of diabetes. Lowers risk of Alzheimer’s disease.|
|Tree nuts (walnut, almond, pistachio)||Rich in unsaturated fats, fiber, minerals||Helps control blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol.|
|Fatty fish||Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids||Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease caused by clogged arteries, such as heart disease, stroke and peripheral artery disease.|
|Flaxseeds and small brown seeds||Rich in fiber, Omega-3 fatty acids||Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease caused by clogged arteries, such as heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.|
The benefits of a heart-healthy diet are innumerable. Mediterranean diet and DASH diet are proven diets that keep your heart healthy and prevent cardiovascular disease, as well as, help in managing diabetes and cholesterol. Any diet that is well-balanced and nutritious includes a variety of foods that are beneficial and excludes foods that are harmful. What is most important is the overall pattern of your food choices. Treat your body right by choosing the best foods to set you up for a healthy life!