If you're eating North American food:
Whether you have already been diagnosed with heart or vascular disease, or if you are trying to prevent these diseases, a healthy diet can be the best plan and defense for your body.
A balanced and nutritious diet is smart to have at any age, but people most often begin paying attention to what they eat when they’re older. A recent study from Northwestern Medicine suggests a healthy diet in young adulthood might decrease the likelihood of heart disease later in life.
The study results showed people who ate more fruits and vegetables as young adults had lower levels of calcium in their arteries 20 years later. Participants who ate an average of seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables were 25 percent less likely to have significant amounts of calcium than those who ate two to four servings a day. Also, those with lower levels of calcium were more likely to have followed a healthier diet, including more sources of heart-healthy nutrients, like fish and nuts.
Simple dietary modifications can have a long-term impact on your health and heart:
- Use up at least as many calories as you take in. Know how many calories you should eat and drink to maintain your weight.
- Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups. Nutrient-rich foods have minerals, protein, whole grains and other nutrients, but are lower in calories.
- Eat less of nutrient-poor foods. Limit foods and beverages high in calories but low in nutrients.
- Reduce your salt intake. A diet high in salt makes your body retain extra fluid, causing your heart to work harder and raising your blood pressure.
And while dietary modifications can significantly benefit your health and your heart, don't forget about the benefits of combining other lifestyle modifications with your dietary changes, including exercise and quitting smoking.