Health Notes

Dishing Up a Heart Healthy Diet

by Katina Granger on February 6, 2017

Maintaining a healthy heart starts with two essential ingredients: exercise and DIET.

“Exercise, diet and just making healthy lifestyle choices are important to protecting your heart health,” said Dr. Michael Peters, a cardiologist at Methodist Physicians Clinic Heart Consultants. “Don’t take those things lightly.”

Here are our top six diet tips to make your heart healthier:

1. Control portion size and limit sweets (sorry). Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for coronary heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, abnormal blood fats and a host of other health problems. Overeating and eating sugary foods can add extra pounds, putting a big burden on your heart.

“Regular soda contains a very high amount of sugar,” said Kim Robison, MSN, RN, PCCN, a cardiac unit educator at Methodist Hospital. “Excess sugar can lead to weight gain from extra calories which can increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.”

2. Eat more fruits and vegetables. There’s a reason fruits and veggies should make up about half of every meal you eat – they are packed with vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber that can help keep your heart and your body strong. Fruits and vegetables are also a great source of antioxidants, which may help support cardiovascular health.

3. Opt for whole grains. Whole grains contain additional protein, fiber and other nutrients usually lost in the refining process. These nutrients play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. Make your diet healthier by substituting refined grain products for whole grain.

4. Limit unhealthy fats. High cholesterol can lead to a buildup of plaque in your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. Limiting how much saturated and trans fats you eat is an important step to reduce your blood cholesterol and lower your risk of coronary artery disease

“Trans and saturated fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol, increasing your risk factors for heart disease and stroke,” said Pat Klaus, RD, LMNT, LD, a dietitian at the Methodist Hospital Center for Diabetes and Nutritional Health. “On the flip side, unsaturated fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good for you. These fats appear to improve cholesterol levels and may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and developing diabetes.”

5. Choose low-fat protein sources. Bacon and sausage may be delicious, but they’re also loaded with grease and fats that are rough on your heart. Instead, get your protein from foods such as lean meats, eggs, low-fat dairy products and fish. Fish also has the added benefit of being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood fats called triglycerides.

6. Reduce your sodium intake. Eating foods loaded with sodium can raise your blood pressure, and your heart attack risk right along with it. Healthy adults should have no more than 2,300mg of sodium a day – about a teaspoon of salt. Those over 51 and those with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should reduce that intake to no more than 1,500mg. Avoid processed foods like canned soups and prepared meals. They are often loaded with sodium.

“Those with congestive heart failure really have to watch their salt intake,” said Martha Nepper, MS, RDN, LMNT, CDE, a dietitian at the Methodist Hospital Center for Diabetes and Nutritional Health. “If they take in too much salt they can get in trouble in a hurry. They start to retain a lot of fluid and can put their heart in a stressful circumstance pretty quickly. Be aware of the things you are eating and how much.”

In addition to healthy eating and exercise, you should see your doctor regularly to check your cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure. Talk today with your Methodist Physicians Clinic primary care provider to see what else you can do to reduce your heart attack risk.

“Don’t be afraid to ask important questions!” said Robison. “Talk to your health care provider about your family history, smoking history, current diet, blood pressure and weight. Ask him or her what you can do to decrease your chances of developing cardiovascular disease.”

Need a recipe to help build a healthy heart? Check out this one from a Methodist Hospital Café chef!

Katina Granger is a blogger and PR/Social Media Specialist for Methodist Health System.
Contact Katina at
Katina Granger


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