By the time you read this, more than five people in the U.S. will have died from heart disease. As the number one killer of Americans, heart disease claims the lives of more than 600,000 people a year which is more than 1,600 a day. That is a frightening number, especially when you consider that many of those deaths may have been preventable. The three most important risk factors for heart disease and other cardiovascular problems are smoking, diet, and lack of exercise. It may seem outrageous that we have the tools and knowledge to significantly decrease the number of heart disease diagnoses each year and yet it remains the most common cause of death in this country. The problem is that prevention requires significant lifestyle changes that most people find very difficult to make, especially when it requires big changes now in order to prevent something bad sometime in the future.
And the problem isn’t just here. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than 17 million people die from cardiovascular diseases every year. In an effort to further decrease the number of people who die from heart related diseases, the World Heart Federation is sponsoring World Heart Day on September 29th. The organization’s goal is to spread awareness about the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and to educate people across the globe on how they can decrease their risk.
One of the biggest changes everyone can make is to migrate to a more heart-healthy diet. While you may be thinking that means you can’t eat this or you can’t eat that, in reality, lasting change comes from understanding how to balance the different foods that make up your diet in the most heart-healthy way. To get you started thinking about heart health for World Heart Day, here are two small changes you can make now that will yield big results down the road.
1. Don’t Pass the Salt
One of the easiest dietary changes you can implement right away is to start reducing your overall intake of salt. This might start by decreasing the amount you add to your food at the table. You can also choose lower-sodium alternatives when they are available or make your own food so that you can control the amount of salt. Reducing your sodium intake can help reduce the risk of high-blood pressure which is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.
2. Pick Smaller Plates
Here in the U.S., one of our biggest challenges when it comes to our diet is the size of our portions. We have become accustomed to oversized portions and we are not always aware that one portion might contain 2, 3, or even 4 servings. This contributes to overeating in general and not getting the right balance in our overall diet. While no one likes to have to weigh and measure their food, you can immediate decrease your portion size simply by using a smaller plate. Just make sure you don’t go back for seconds and sabotage yourself.
- 5 Easy Ways to Eat Better for Less (fillyourplate.org)
- How Eating a Clove of Garlic a Day Might Keep the Doctor Away (fillyourplate.org)
- 7 Tips to Eating Your Way to More Energy (fillyourplate.org)