With so much information, figuring out the best ways to eat heart healthy can become overwhelming. However, registered dietitians and other nutrition experts across Sentara are eager to help you sort through the information to devise the best nutrition plans for you and your situation.
How food choices affect our heartThe food we eat directly affects our heart health. With healthy eating, a healthy weight and exercise, you can improve conditions that lead to heart disease, including:
Diabetes - High blood sugar can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart. Limiting sugary foods is crucial to controlling diabetes.
High blood pressure - High blood pressure damages your arteries. Consuming too much sodium leads to water retention. This, in turn, can cause blood pressure to rise because the added water stresses your heart and blood vessels
High cholesterol - If we take in more cholesterol than the body can use, extra cholesterol can build up in the walls of our arteries. In time, this leads to narrowing of the arteries and decreased blood flow to the heart, brain, kidneys and other parts of the body.
Obesity - Excess weight can lead to fatty material building up in your arteries. Obesity is a risk factor for other conditions that, in turn, can damage your heart.
Creating a heart-healthy diet
A "heart-healthy" diet limits food that puts you at risk for heart disease and allows you to eat plenty of the foods that keep your heart healthy. Our registered dietitians will work with you to create a diet that works best for you.
You can schedule a one-on-one counseling session with a registered dietitian. Our goal is to use food as a tool to improve your health and reduce your risk of heart disease. If you've suffered a heart attack, we will help you revamp your diet. In addition, some of our cardiac rehab clinics offer group classes to help you learn what and how to eat after a heart attack.
Heart-healthy diets include:
- Healthy protein (primarily plants such as legumes and nuts; lean and unprocessed meat)
- High-fiber foods
- Low-fat dairy products
- Seafood such as salmon and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Whole grains
Ornish Lifestyle Medicine
Sentara offers a unique program, Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, to reverse the progression of heart disease without drugs or surgery. The program at Sentara is the only one in the state of Virginia.
Ornish Lifestyle Medicine focuses on a whole-food, plant-based diet. Other program pillars are stress management, fitness and social support.
Ornish Care Specialists are available at 1-877-888-3091 to answer all of your questions.