Whole Heart

Your Diet Can Stave Off Heart Disease

There is no perfect diet, but little improvements count.
A good diet is always important for health, but the stakes are especially high for people with heart disease. Food can either help protect the heart or provide fuel for a heart attack.

The diet plan you choose to prevent heart disease will depend on your unique risk factors. People with hypertension, for example, should choose a plan low in sodium and fat.

Those with high cholesterol should consider a diet rich in olive oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and other heart-healthy fats.

Those who need to lose weight should consider a calorie-restricted version of their heart-healthy diet. On average, cutting 500 calories a day from your diet leads to a loss of one pound per week. The safest way to lose weight is to aim to drop up to one pound per week; crash diets can be harmful and rarely lead to permanent weight loss.

It is unlikely that you'll ward off heart disease through diet alone—exercise and heart medications matter too—but your choices at the dinner table really can determine your future.

A healthy weight is a healthy heart
One reason it's important to eat healthfully is to keep your body weight in a normal range.

A study of nearly 30,000 men found that overweight men (BMI 25 to 28.9) had a 72% increased risk of developing coronary heart disease over a three-year period, compared with men of a normal weight. Obese men had a 244% increased risk.

Another study found that adhering to any weight-loss plan—even a high-fat program—over one year can reduce your LDL/HDL ratio by 10% and modestly lower overall cardiac risk factors.

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Lead writer: Chris Woolston
Last Updated: April 28, 2008

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