While deaths due to heart disease havedropped in recent years, it’s still the No. 1 killer of Americans. The good news is that we now know a ton about how to prevent cardiovascular disease, which includes both strokes and heart attacks.
It’s clear that healthy eating and living (like exercising more!) can make a huge difference.
Salmon and other fatty fish such as sardines and mackerel are the superstars of heart-healthy foods. That’s because they contain copious amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, shown in studies to lower the risk ofarrhythmia (irregular heart beat) andatherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries) and decrease triglycerides. TheAmerican Heart Association recommends eating fish and preferably fatty fish at least twice a week. Omega-3 fatty acids are also available as dietary supplements.
Oatmeal is high in soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol. “It acts as a sponge in the digestive tract and soaks up the cholesterol so it is eliminated from the body and not absorbed into the bloodstream,” says Lauren Graf, a registered dietician and co-director of the Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Graf recommends avoiding instant oatmeal, which often contains sugar, and heading instead for old-fashioned or even quick-cooking oats. Other whole grains such as bread, pasta and grits are also good for the heart as long as they still contain the entire grain.