A heart-healthy Mediterranean-style plant-based diet is good for the cardiovascular system.

Lower cholesterol to lower cardiovascular disease risk

The American Heart Association has recently released their 2016 statistical update on heart disease and strokes.

Heart disease continues to be the number one killer in the world, and strokes are number 2. In the U.S. over 800,000 lives are lost to all forms of cardiovascular disease.

There are seven lifestyle health factors and behaviors that are tracked by the American Heart Association - all are related to our cardiovascular disease health. This is how the U.S. shakes down on these habits.

  1. Smoking: Nineteen percent of men and 15% of women are smokers.
  2. Exercise: One in three have nophysical activity in their day.
  3. Weight: 160 million are obese or overweight. Of these, 69 percent are adults and 32 percent are children.
  4. High cholesterol can be found in 43 percent of adults. 
  5. High blood pressure is in 33 percent adults.
  6. Diabetes is in 9 percent and 35 percent have pre-diabetes.
  7. Only 1.5 percent Americans have a very healthy diet.

It seems that there are many opportunities for folks to reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease because all of the risks that I mentioned about are under our control.

We can… 

  • Stop smoking
  • Get 150 minutes of physical activity each week or about 30 minutes daily
  • Lose weight
  • Control blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and pre-diabetes.
  • Make healthy food choices

Changing our diet will have an impact on all of these risk factors, including reducing both total and LDL-cholesterol. A heart-healthy Mediterranean-style plant-based diet will be good for the cardiovascular system.

Select plenty of:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole-grains 
  • Healthy fats like nuts, avocados and olive oil 
  • Lean protein such as fish and poultry breast
  • Vegetarian protein sources such as tofu, dried beans and peas and veggie burgers

There is additional information on the Life’s Simple 7 Lifestyle Behaviors from the American Heart Association at www.heart.org.


About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.