Cardiovascular disease is responsible for one in four deaths in the United States, making it the leading cause of death among both males and females in the country. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. However, an unhealthy diet can also increase your chances of having a stroke and developing cardiovascular conditions.
Luckily, you can improve heart health and reduce your risk of developing this deadly disease by filling your plate with healthy foods. Add the following items to your grocery list to lower blood pressure, blood triglycerides and cholesterol levels.
1. Leafy Greens
Spinach, kale and other leafy greens are a great source of vitamin K, which can promote proper blood clotting and protect your arteries from plaque buildup. These nutritious veggies are also high in dietary nitrates, compounds that effectively dilate your blood vessels to lower blood pressure and improve heart health. Enjoy a salad full of leafy greens or saute some to add to pasta dishes, stir-fries and other delicious dishes.
Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries are rich in antioxidants that protect against oxidative stress and inflammation. Berries can also improve the function of cells that line your blood vessels to help control blood pressure and clotting. One study found that eating a cup of blueberries per day can even reduce your risk for heart disease by 15%. Include these and other berries in salads and yogurt or enjoy them as a healthy, low-calorie snack.
There’s a reason Dwight Schrute had such an obsession with beets. These bright red root vegetables are brimming with inorganic nitrates that work to lower blood pressure. They also contain powerful carotenoids that boost blood circulation to minimize your risk of stroke. Toss some beets in your juicer, add them to salads or enjoy them as a side dish to reap these and other benefits.
Many doctors also recommend seafood like salmon to patients at risk of heart disease. This fish is rich in vitamin A, vitamin D and, most importantly, omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s reduce the risk of cardiovascular events like strokes, heart attacks and arrhythmias. Choose wild sockeye salmon to get the biggest dose of this vital nutrient and boost heart health in both the short and long term. Enjoy it as a main entree or add it to salads and poke bowls and play with different flavor combos.
5. Dark Chocolate
Milk chocolate is loaded with sugar, which can cause inflammation and stress your heart and blood vessels. However, dark chocolate does quite the opposite, especially if it contains almonds. Scientists have found that eating these two foods together can improve lipid profiles and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. So, if you’re looking for a reason to indulge your sweet tooth, this is it.
Eat Well, Live Well
Emerging evidence continues to show a correlation between diet and cardiovascular health. What you put on your plate will determine how healthy your blood vessels, arteries and heart are. Eat and live well by choosing fresh, nutritious foods. Maintaining a well-balanced diet will ensure you live a long, happy, heart-healthy life.