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This February Try a Heart Healthy Diet

February 19, 2020

February is heart health month. But what does it mean to be heart healthy? It actually means many different things, such as eating healthy, being active, getting good sleep, and it’s also about preventing heart disease.

By Laure Vincent, Nutrition Intern from NCCU

DFC Nutrition Heart Healthy Diet.jpg

Try a Heart Healthy Diet this Februray
But what does it mean to be heart healthy? It actually means many different things, such as eating healthy, being active, getting good sleep, and it’s also about preventing heart disease.

Quick Facts About Heart Disease

  • It’s the leading cause of death in the United States. One in four people dies from heart disease.1
  • Your risk for heart disease increases with unhealthy behaviors, such as poor eating habits, not being physically active, or drinking too much alcohol.1
  • Your risk is higher if you have certain conditions and diseases, such as diabetes or obesity.1 

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Try a Heart Healthy Diet This February

The good news is that it’s never too late to support your heart health. Use February to explore a heart healthy diet. Check out these four flavor-full, heart-friendly diets:

DASH Diet

The DASH “Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension” diet is high in fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and low in animal protein.2,3 This diet has a sodium restriction of 2,000 mg per day.2 These components make the DASH diet high in antioxidant properties.2,3 Research has shown individuals who follow the DASH diet have decreased blood pressure and inflammation – two factors that can protect the heart.2,3 

Takeaways about the DASH Diet 

  • High in fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and low in animal protein.2,3
  • It can decrease blood pressure and inflammation.2,3 
  • It is a low sodium diet. 

"The Mediterranean diet is considered more of a lifestyle than a diet as it originated in Southern Italy/Greece." 

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is considered more of a lifestyle than a diet as it originated in Southern Italy/Greece. This “diet” is high in leafy greens, fruit, whole grains, nuts, legumes, fish, lean meats, and extra virgin olive oil.2 There is a low emphasis on dairy, moderate consumption of wine, and limited amounts of sodium used. Research has shown that a Mediterranean diet decreases co-morbidities such as heart attack, stroke, and LDL cholesterol, ultimately leading to a decrease in mortality.2,4  

Takeaways about the Mediterranean diet:

  • It’s high in leafy greens, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes, fish, lean meats, and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Dairy is not a focus.
  • The Mediterranean diet is also known to prevent heart attack, stroke, and high cholesterol.2,4 

Take the First Step

Vegetarian Diet 

This diet eliminates meat, poultry, and seafood and substitutes it with soy products, legumes, nuts, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. With thorough planning the vegetarian diet has been shown in research to help lower the risk of heart disease. Research has shown there is less sodium in the diet due to less processed foods; this is associated with lowered blood pressure and risk for hypertension.2,5  Soy products, beans and legumes, and whole grains can help increase HDL (good) cholesterol and decrease weight.2,5  Vegetables can reduce heart disease risk in many ways, having vascular benefits, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.2

Takeaways about a Vegetarian Diet:

  • Focused on legumes, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables which can help increase HDL (good) cholesterol and decrease weight.2,5
  • Less sodium due to less processed foods.2,5
  • Associated with lowered blood pressure and risk for hypertension.2,5
  • Anti-inflammatory properties.2 

An Individualized Diet with the Duke Diet & Fitness Center Nutrition Team

The Duke Diet & Fitness Center offers flexible diet options that support different health conditions and lifestyles. As you embrace heart-healthy February, the Duke Diet and Fitness Center is here to help you with the following:

  • Carbohydrate diets that range from moderate to very low.
  • Diets that consider lower to higher fat content.
  • Meal plans that work uniquely for you.
  • Meals that contain lower sodium levels and focus on whole food options, such as lean proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and dairy products. The DFC also has soy and plant-based options for those who don’t eat meat.

"Overall the diet chosen should be realistic for incorporation in your lifestyle."

In sum, the best diet for a heart healthy lifestyle is individualized. Listed above are multiple approaches to achieving the same result. Overall the diet chosen should be realistic for incorporation in your lifestyle. Here at the DFC we are able to help individuals determine what type of diet best fits their needs and their lifestyle. This ensures adherence to the diet enhancing lifelong benefits. 

Expertise. Here at DFC, we are a team that includes experts in medicine, diet and nutrition, fitness and exercise, and behavioral health. Our experts have helped over 50,000 people and we can help you too. Call 1-800-235-3853 or visit http://www.dukedietandfitness.org and give yourself a healthier heart and an overall healthier you.

References:

1. Heart Disease Facts. Center for Disease Control and Prevention

2. Pallazola VA, Davis DM, Whelton SP, et al. A Clinician's Guide to Healthy Eating for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention. Mayo Clin Proc Innov Qual Outcomes. 2019;3(3):251–267. Published 2019 Aug 1. doi:10.1016/j.mayocpiqo.2019.05.001

3. Fung TT, Chiuve SE, McCullough ML, Rexrode KM, Logroscino G, Hu FB. Adherence to a DASH-Style Diet and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke in Women. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(7):713–720. doi:10.1001/archinte.168.7.713 

4. Tektonidis, T. G., Åkesson, A., Gigante, B., Wolk, A., & Larsson, S. C. (2015). A Mediterranean diet and risk of myocardial infarction, heart failure and stroke: A population-based cohort study. 243(1), 93–98. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2015.08.039

5. Kahleova, Hana, et al. Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Cardiovascular Disease.” Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, vol. 61, no. 1, 2018, pp. 54–61., doi:10.1016/j.pcad.2018.05.002

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