When setting out on a new diet regimen many people focus on what it will mean for them on the scale. However, what you eat can have a bigger impact on more than just your waistline. Heart disease in the United States is the leading cause of death for both men and women according to the American Heart Association. A balanced diet can help prevent and reverse the effects of the disease. Registered Dietitian, Lisa Mathews, M.S. R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E., with Williamson Medical Center, shares her expert knowledge on the leading causes of heart disease, foods to avoid and the best diets for a heart-healthy life.
According to Mathews, there are two key areas to watch when focusing on your heart health. “I tell my patients that to keep their heart in check they want to make sure they are watching their sodium and their saturated fat intake,” said Mathews. “A diet rich in saturated fat and high in sodium can cause elevated blood pressure as well as high cholesterol, both of which can lead to the risk of developing heart disease.”
If you’re concerned about your heart health or if heart disease runs in your family, Mathews says one of the most important things you can do is make your diet a priority by watching what you eat.
“You want to make sure you’re eating foods as close to nature as possible—that means limiting processed and prepackaged foods,” she said. “You also want to avoid the consumption of trans fats. If you see the word ‘hydrogenated’ on the ingredient label, that means hydrogen was added to a liquid oil to make it solid. Consuming these fats increases your LDL (bad) cholesterol, decreases your HDL (good) cholesterol, and increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.”
Mathews goes on to share that people should be wary of items that tout their products as ‘heart healthy’ and reminds you to read the label. “To be able to make certain claims, food companies have to follow established guidelines to prevent false advertising. However, even if the label says ‘healthy’ or ‘high fiber’ it still doesn’t mean that it’s the best for you,” she explained.
“Take chips for example,” she said. “The bag might say that it’s made with flax seeds or it is multi-grain but when you read the label on the back, it’s the exact same nutritional value as a regular chip. You have to be a savvy shopper and that means being aware that a whole-grain label doesn’t always equate to healthy.”
Knowing what to avoid is half the challenge though, you also need to know what foods are going to help you reach your heart-healthy goals.
“The best types of heart-healthy diets are going to consist of a variety of fruits and vegetables loaded with antioxidants, lean meats and fish, healthy fats, and whole-grains,” she said.
About Lisa Mathews:
Lisa Mathews, M.S., R.D.N, L.D.N., C.D.E., is an outpatient nutrition education coordinator with Williamson Medical Center. She is also a certified fitness trainer and speaks in the community about health and wellness. You can reach her office at (615) 435-5580.Share this Article