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Nutrition & Heart Health

Research shows that you can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease significantly—by 82 percent—simply by leading a healthy lifestyle.

In most cases, that means following a heart-healthy eating plan, getting regular physical activity maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking. Some people also need to take medication to control heart disease risk factors such diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.


Eating for a Healthy Heart

A diet that promotes a healthy heart is one that is low in saturated fats and high in fruits and vegetables. It also means managing cholesterol levels, and eating a diet that promotes healthy blood pressure. Studies have proven that the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet is very effective at lowering high blood pressure.

The federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend:

  • Eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and moderate in total fat
  • Eating a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains
  • Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Consuming beverages and foods that moderate sugar intake
  • Choosing and preparing foods with less salt
  • Drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation (for those who consume alcohol)

These guidelines also emphasize that people should aim for a healthy weight by being physically active every day.

If you’re concerned about the health of your heart, a registered WakeMed dietitian can work with you to assess your current eating habits and lifestyle—while taking into account your medical history and medications—to help you adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle.


Food Groups and Portion Sizes

Controlling portion sizes is an important element to a heart-healthy diet. Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov to learn more about the federal guidelines for food groups and portion sizes. (You’ll be taken to a new site.) Food groups to focus on include:

  • Fruits: Fuel up with fruits at meals and snacks, like ranges, pears, berries, watermelon, peaches, raisins and applesauce (without extra sugar). Make sure your juice is 100 percent fruit juice.
  • Vegetables: Color your plate with great-tasting veggies. Try to eat more dark green, red and orange vegetables, as well as beans and peas.
  • Grains: Make at least half your grains whole grains. Choose whole-grain foods such as whole-wheat bread and tortillas, oatmeal, brown rice and light popcorn more often.
  • Protein: Vary your protein foods. Try fish, shellfish, beans and peas more often. Some tasty suggestions include a bean burrito or fish taco, hummus, veggie chili, grilled salmon and shrimp or tofu stir-fry.
  • Dairy: Get your calcium-rich foods. Dairy foods contain calcium for strong bones and healthy teeth. Choose fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese at meals or snacks.


WakeMed Nutrition Services

WakeMed’s Nutrition Services program is made up of licensed, registered dietitians who are committed to providing evidence-based, scientific nutrition advice.

These professionals have many years of experience counseling patients with cardiac disease, as well as people who simply want to eat a more heart-healthy diet.


Make an Appointment

With office hours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., WakeMed dietitians offer convenient outpatient appointments that fit many schedules. Call 919-350-7000 (Option 4) to put their experience to work for you, or have your physician fax this Outpatient Nutrition Services referral form to us at 919-350-8959.

Cardiac dietary services are now being covered more frequently by health insurance providers. Check with your insurance carrier about coverage and costs.


Ask A Dietitian

WakeMed dietitians are ready to provide helpful information on a variety of topics. Wondering which protein bar is best? Confused about what you read in a nutrition news story or article? Is eating organic foods better for my health? Email your question to AskADietitian@wakemed.org.


WakeMed Voices Blog

WakeMed dietitians are frequent contributors on a variety of nutrition topics to our WakeMed Voices Blog.