Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. According the data collected by the Center for Disease Control, heart disease accounts for over 600,000 U.S. deaths annually. That is 1 in every 4 deaths!
Heart attack, stroke, and diabetes are all considered “lifestyle diseases,” which means they are largely preventable. What you eat, how often you exercise, and how you manage stress all play an important role in preventing and managing heart disease.
In fact, a new study out of Tufts University estimates that over half of the deaths caused by cardiometabolic diseases are directly related to diet. This includes both the consumption of harmful food and the lack of consumption of helpful foods.
Renata Micha, the study’s lead author, explains that “Americans are not eating enough fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains vegetable oils or fish. Americans are overeating salt, processed meats and sugary-sweetened beverages.”
Of all these factors, the researchers found that excess sodium consumption had the greatest correlation to premature death.
The extremity of American sodium consumption is largely due to the prevalence of refined salt in processed food. There are many studies that show that excess salt can increase blood pressure and stress the cardiovascular system.
The study identified 6 food groups that are beneficial to heart health and 4 food groups that are detrimental. The researchers recommend us all to…
- Fruits: 3 average-sized fruits daily
- Vegetables: 2 cups cooked or 4 cups raw vegetables daily
- Nuts/seeds: 5 1-ounce servings per week — about 20 nuts per serving
- Whole grains: 2 ½ daily servings
- Polyunsaturated fats, found in many vegetable oils: 11 percent of daily calories
- Seafood: about 8 ounces weekly
- Red meat: 1 serving weekly — 1 medium steak or the equivalent
- Processed meat: None recommended
- Sugary drinks: None recommended
- Salt: 2,000 milligrams daily — just under a teaspoon.
In a recent interview Micha said that the findings present tremendous dietary policy implications. “Instead of spending billions and billions of dollars on simply treating disease, we have an opportunity to focus on preventing disease…Preventing deaths through promoting healthy eating habits is the most timely and urgent priority of our time, from a health perspective.”
This information empowers us to take responsibility for our own health. With a bit of awareness and effort, we can take steps towards dramatically reducing our chances of cardiometabolic disease.