How Your Diet Affects Your Heart’s Health

The leading cause of death in America is heart disease, including rheumatic heart disease, ischemic heart disease, and hypertension, to name a few. In fact, about one out of every three deaths is due to heart disease.

What’s even more shocking is that one of the biggest contributors to heart disease is a simple thing: your diet.

We all understand that a poor diet leads to poor health, but why exactly? How does your diet affect your heart and cardiovascular system? The following is an analysis of diets high in fat, sugar, and sodium, and how they play into your heart’s health.

Diets High in Fat

When fat enters the body, it’s digested in your small intestine and broken down into usable particles. Your body carries this fat around to different organs and systems via your bloodstream. A certain amount of fat is essential for bodily function and overall health. However, when you consume too much fat, the excess is stored in your body.

There are three main types of fat: saturated, trans, and mono and polyunsaturated fat, which all have slightly different effects on your heart’s health.

Saturated Fat

A diet high in saturated fat can easily lead to heart disease because this type of fat can raise cholesterol and contribute to clogged arteries.

Foods High in Saturated Fat

  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Cream
  • Butter
  • Cheese

Trans Fat

A diet high in trans fat is also dangerous and can lead to heart disease as well as type 2 diabetes.

Foods High in Trans Fat

  • Packaged cakes
  • Store-bought frosting
  • Margarine
  • Doughnuts
  • Microwave popcorn

Mono and Polyunsaturated Fat

Mono and polyunsaturated fats are considered to be healthier than saturated and trans. These fats may help reduce the risk of high blood cholesterol if they replace saturated fats.

Foods High in Mono & Polyunsaturated Fats

  • Avocados
  • Sunflower and Flaxseeds
  • Salmon and trout
  • Walnuts
  • Olive and safflower oil

Diets High in Added Sugar

When sugar enters the body, your body processes it and turns it into cell energy. Unfortunately, too much sugar can quickly mess with your bodies natural insulin levels which can eventually lead to diabetes and heart disease. In fact, one study reported that the odds of dying from heart disease rise in tandem with the percentage of added sugar in one’s diet.

Luckily, naturally derived sugar, like the sugar found in fruit, is generally healthier than added sugar (soda, cookies, etc.).

Foods High in Sugar

  • Soda
  • Lemonade
  • Sports drinks
  • Cookies
  • Cakes
  • Candy

Diets High in Sodium

When you consume sodium, it causes your body to hold on to extra fluid. This extra fluid needs to be circulated throughout your body, so your heart pumps harder, causing high blood pressure and often leading to heart disease.

High-Sodium Foods:

  • Salty snacks
  • Vegetable juice
  • Processed meats and cheeses
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Sauces, especially soy

Diets High in Fruits, Vegetables, and Whole Grains

A balanced diet with fruit vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins can promote heart health by giving your body a balanced nutrient profile.

Without extra fat, sugar, or salt, your body can efficiently run and keep your arteries and heart clear of the molecules that most frequently contribute to heart disease.

Rather than removing high-fat or high-sugar foods from your diet overnight, try to simply add more fruits, vegetables, and grains. These healthy foods will deliver essential vitamins and minerals and can curb some of your cravings and reduce your risk of suffering from heart disease.

For more information about diet and heart health, visit the medical professionals at Valley View Heart & Vascular Center in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.