Heart disease ranks as the leading cause of death in the United States among both men and women, accounting for nearly 600,000 deaths a year, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
Considering the strong link that exists between heart disease and weight gain, these statistics come as little surprise as two-thirds of all Americans are either overweight or obese.
However, while the risk factors for heart disease remain high, the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease has steadily declined by 27.8 percent from 1997 to 2007, according to the American Heart Association.
In order to improve their health, many Americans have begun to change their diets to focus on eating more heart healthy foods. While you can obviously improve your diet by eating less saturated fat, red meat, and by reducing calories, you can also improve your heart’s health by adding some valuable foods to any diet.
Black beans are loaded with heart-healthy nutrients, such as folate, antioxidants, and magnesium, which helps to lower blood pressure. Beans in general are also a wonderful source of fiber, an important part of any diet that helps you keep both your blood sugar and cholesterol levels in check.
A can of black beans can be easily added to most any meal in a pinch, and can go a long way towards improving your health.
Just make sure you wash the beans before preparing them to wash away any excess sodium.
Much has been made in recent years about the health benefits of drinking a glass of red wine a day. What gives red wine this added boost are the antioxidants resveratrol and catechins, which researchers believe help to protect the walls of your arteries.
Drinking alcohol can also provide a boost to your HDL (good cholesterol) levels. Of course, drinking too much can have a negative impact on your health, so make sure you don’t overindulge.
One of the best foods for improving heart health, salmon contains high levels of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. These types of omega-3s help to lower your risk of developing a rhythm disorder, which can cause sudden cardiac death.
Salmon also helps to reduce inflammation and lowers triglycerides levels in the bloodstream.
Eating at least two serving of salmon or other fatty fish (such as tuna) a week is recommended by the American Heart Association.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Made from the first press of olives, extra virgin olive oil contains an abundance of polyphenols, an antioxidant that improve heart health, and healthy monounsaturated fats. When used to replace saturated fats during cooking (such as butter), olive oil can help to lower your cholesterol levels.
Some studies have also suggested that polyphenols can protect blood vessels as well.
Even though almonds are high in fat, it’s fortunately the good kind. Plus almonds also contain plenty of vitamin E, fiber, and plant sterols.
Studies have shown that almonds can reduce LDL levels (bad cholesterol) and your risk of diabetes.
A favorite in sushi restaurants, edamame are packed with soy protein, which helps to lower blood triglyceride levels in the body.
Just a half cup of these soybeans contain nine grams of fiber, the same as four slices of whole-wheat bread.
A wonderful and healthy substitute to white potatoes for individuals concerned about diabetes, sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index, so eating them won’t cause an immediate spike in blood sugar levels.
Sweet potatoes also contain plenty of vitamin A, fiber, and lycopene to further improve their heart-healthy status.
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