February is National Heart Month. Uncontrolled high blood pressure, or hypertension, is dangerous and far too common, especially in the older demographics. In fact, the CDC reports 1 of 2 adults in the United States has a heart condition.
Diet plays a major role in heart health and can impact your risk of heart disease. Did you know certain foods can influence blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol levels and inflammation, all of which are risk factors for heart disease? Below are 10 best foods for your heart health.
Fatty Fish and Fish Oil
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been studied extensively for their heart-health benefits like lowering the risk of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries) and decreasing triglycerides. If you don’t eat much seafood, fish oil supplements are another option to get your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
Oatmeal is high in soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol. It acts like a sponge and soaks up the cholesterol so it is eliminated from the body and not absorbed into the bloodstream.
Blueberries, strawberries, and other berries have compounds known as anthocyanins, flavonoids (which are antioxidants) that may decrease blood pressure and dilate blood vessels. A fun fact, anthocyanins is what gives plants their red and blue colors!
Eating beans can reduce certain risk factors for heart disease. Beans contain resistant starch, which resists digestion and is fermented by the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Don’t dismiss potatoes because carbs and starch. As long as they're not deep fried, potatoes can be good for your heart. They're rich in potassium, which can help lower blood pressure. And they're high in fiber, which can lower the risk for heart disease.
Like potatoes, tomatoes are high in heart-healthy potassium. They’re also a good source of the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid that may help lower levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol, keep blood vessels open, and lower heart attack risk. It is also low in sugar making it a healthy addition in many ways.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Spinach, kale and collard greens are well-known for their vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are a great source of vitamin K, which helps protect your arteries and promote proper blood clotting. They’re also high in dietary nitrates, which have been shown to reduce blood pressure, decrease arterial stiffness and improve the function of cells lining the blood vessels.
Avocados are an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to reduced levels of cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease. They are also rich in potassium, a nutrient that’s essential to heart health.
Garlic has been used as a natural remedy to treat a variety of ailments for centuries. Research has confirmed its potent medicinal properties and found that garlic can even help improve heart health. This is due to allicin, which is believed to have a multitude of therapeutic effects.
A staple in the Mediterranean diet, there are many benefits of olive oil. It is packed with antioxidants, which can relieve inflammation and decrease the risk of chronic disease. It’s also rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, and many studies have associated it with improvements in heart health.
Keep food in mind when you are trying to better your heart health. Looking for more information on heart health and heart disease? Here are some educational resources from the CDC.