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Heart-Healthy Eating

Topic Overview

What is heart-healthy eating?

A heart-healthy diet focuses on adding more healthy foods to your diet and cutting back on foods that aren't so good for you. It is part of a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes regular activity and not smoking.

Expert groups publish heart-healthy diet guidelines for all adults and for children older than age 2.

To put these guidelines into action, see:

If you already have heart or blood vessel problems, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, specific eating plans can help you manage those problems.

A few simple ideas

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables and other high-fibre foods.
  • Choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
  • Eat at least two servings of fish each week. Oily fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, are best. These fish include salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines.
  • Limit salt, alcohol, and sugar.

What if you have high cholesterol?

Eat a heart-healthy diet that aims to lower cholesterol by reducing saturated fat in your diet.

To learn more, see:

  • High Cholesterol: Healthy Food Choices.

What if you have high blood pressure?

The DASH diet is a good choice for people who have high blood pressure. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Hypertension is high blood pressure.

For help with the DASH diet, see:

To learn more, see a sample menu for the DASH diet.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet can also help lower cholesterol. Like other diets, it limits saturated fat. But on the Mediterranean diet, you can eat more total fat—as long as it's unsaturated. It also allows more fish oils, olive oil, and nut and seed oils.

For more information, see the topic Mediterranean Diet.

How do you choose a diet?

With so many different food plans and health tips, it can be confusing to know what's best for you and your heart.

A chart that compares heart-healthy diets can help you see what foods are suggested in each plan.

Health Tools

Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.

Actionsets are designed to help people take an active role in managing a health condition.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • American Heart Association (2006). Diet and lifestyle recommendations revision 2006. Circulation, 114(1): 82–96. [Erratum in Circulation, 114(1): e27.]
  • Eckel RH, et al. (2013). 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/11/11/01.cir.0000437740.48606.d1.citation. Accessed December 5, 2013.
  • Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents (2011). Expert panel on integrated guidelines for cardiovascular health and risk reduction in children and adolescents: Summary report. Pediatrics, 128(Suppl 5): S213–S256.
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2006). Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH (NIH Publication No. 06-4082). Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf.
  • Smith SC, et al. (2011). AHA/ACCF secondary prevention and risk reduction therapy for patients with coronary and other atherosclerotic vascular disease: 2011 update: A guideline from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology Foundation. Circulation, 124(22): 2458–2473. Also available online: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/124/22/2458.full.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture (2015). 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans 8th ed. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Accessed January 12, 2016.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerRakesh K. Pai, MD - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Colleen O'Connor, PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian
Kathleen M. Fairfield, MD, MPH, DrPH - Internal Medicine

Current as ofDecember 6, 2017