Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How do I make changes to my diet to help my heart?

        Health | Heart

Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise are the most important ways to achieve or maintain acceptable cholesterol and blood pressure levels. And to help control heart disease, you need to keep your blood cholesterol and blood pressure at or below desired levels. This means your blood cholesterol level should be no more than 200 mg/dL. And your blood pressure should be no more than 140/90 mm HG. Depending on your other health problems, you may need to keep these levels even lower.

If you don't have heart disease, you can help to prevent it by paying attention to your cholesterol levels and blood pressure, because both of these are risk factors for heart disease. High blood cholesterol and high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels and heart over time.

  • To help control cholesterol, you need to limit the amount of fat, especially saturated fat, and cholesterol that you eat. Many people who have high cholesterol also have to take medicine to reduce their level.
  • To help control blood pressure, you need to eat a balanced diet that's low in fat and sodium. Most people who have high blood pressure need to take medicine to control their level, too.

If you're overweight, you can help improve the health of your heart by losing weight. Diet is an important part of this effort. To trim pounds, you need to eat fewer calories - but you also have to make sure you're getting all the nutrients your body needs. To find out how you can lose weight healthfully, see how do I lose weight? Losing weight if you are overweight is the single most important lifestyle change that you can make to help keep cholesterol and blood pressure levels down.


More to Explore