Every year around Valentine’s Day, many people like to indulge that special someone with rich chocolates, a nice dinner, or a decadent dessert.
However, what we think is a wonderful gesture for the one closest to our heart might actually be part of an unhealthy diet, especially if such treats are not enjoyed in moderation. This Valentine’s Day is a good opportunity to think about your loved one’s heart health.
What you eat can be vital to your heart’s health. Diet is directly involved in many of the risk factors for coronary heart disease, including hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity. Paying attention to what you and your loved one eat is one of the most important preventive measures you can take.
Role of diet
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, and people in Kentucky are at a particularly high risk.
“The number of Kentucky residents who die each year due to heart disease is comparable to every person dying in an average 100-square-mile area of the state,” says Dr. David J. Moliterno, co-director of the University of Kentucky Linda and Jack Gill Heart Institute, professor and vice chair of medicine, and chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, UK College of Medicine.
One of the risk factors for coronary heart disease is our diet.
According to Deb Moser, professor in the University of Kentucky College of Nursing and the Linda C. Gill Chair in Nursing, “Kentucky is in the so-called ‘cardiac valley,’ an area of the southeastern United States with the highest rates of heart disease in the country. Kentucky is doubly burdened with regard to heart disease as much of the state is characterized by higher rates of risky health behaviors.”
Diet is a contributing factor in coronary artery disease—the narrowing of the heart’s arteries that causes heart attacks. There are steps you can take to improve your diet and contribute to a healthy heart. However, there is no one food that will completely eliminate your risk of developing heart disease. Your diet has to be addressed overall to maintain balance and health.
Guidelines to a healthier heart
“You can lower your chances of getting heart disease by choosing foods carefully; for a healthy heart, eat a diet low in fat and high in fiber,” Moser says.
There are some easy guidelines to follow when eating for a healthy heart. You should eat less fat, less sodium, fewer calories, and more fiber.
Some fats are more likely to cause heart disease. These fats are usually found in foods from animals, such as meat, milk, cheese, and butter. They are also found in foods with palm and coconut oils, and you should eat these foods sparingly.
Eating less sodium can help lower blood pressure. This can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Sodium is something we need in our diets, but most of us eat too much of it. Most of the sodium we eat comes from salt we add to our food at the table or that food companies add to processed foods. So avoid adding salt to your food.
When trying to keep your heart healthy, eating fewer calories is key. Excess calories lead to weight gain, and being overweight can cause heart disease. When we eat fewer calories than we burn, we lose weight. To decide what caloric intake is right for you or your Valentine, you should consult your doctor or nutritionist.
Fiber can act as a preventive to heart disease. Eating fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains lowers your chances of getting heart disease.
Eating this way does not mean you have to spend more money on food and groceries. You can still eat many foods that cost the same as, or less than, what you’re eating now. You should talk with your doctor or nutritionist to help put together a diet plan for you and your partner, to ensure many years to come.