Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States among men and women. Clearly, the health of our hearts is an important issue, but many people do not take the basic necessary steps to reduce their risk of heart disease. These include not smoking, managing stress, living an active lifestyle, and eating a heart-healthy diet. It can be particularly difficult to change eating habits, but by taking certain simple steps, you can be well on your way to having a healthier heart.

Eat smaller portions

One of the biggest difficulties in the American diet is portion control. Many people have an unrealistic idea of proper portion size because restaurants often serve way more food than is necessary. You can work on controlling your portion sizes by using smaller bowls and plates, and educating yourself on serving sizes. For example, a serving of meat is roughly the size of a deck of cards, and a serving of pasta is about the size of a hockey puck.

Load up on fruits and veggies

Fruits and vegetables are the healthiest foods you can consume for your heart. They are great sources of vitamins while being low in calories and high in dietary fiber. More fruits and vegetables on your plate fill you up so you don’t go for more calorie-heavy foods, like processed foods. You can incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet by making them as accessible as possible. Cut up veggies and put them in baggies in your fridge so you can grab them and go, and keep fruit on your table so you remember to eat it. Add vegetables to everything you cook.

Reduce your sodium intake

Excessive sodium elevates your blood pressure, putting you at risk for cardiovascular disease. A good place to start is by using less table salt, but most adults get the majority of their sodium from processed foods, like frozen dinners or canned soups. Avoid this by making your own food and eating natural, whole foods, so you have greater control over how much sodium is in your food.

Eat whole grains

Whole grains are a good substitution for refined grains, such as white bread, muffins, cakes, and pasta. Opt for whole wheat alternatives for a good source of fiber. For example, opt for oatmeal or 100 percent whole wheat toast for breakfast over a doughnut or pancakes.

Eat lean protein

Protein is essential to your health, but it is important to go for lower fat choices. Good, lean sources of protein include lean cuts of meat, fish, low-fat dairy, and eggs. The way your protein is prepared impacts how healthy it is as well. For example, fried chicken is full of fat, so go for skinless chicken breasts instead. Additionally, fish is a great alternative to fatty meats, such as hamburger. Finally, legumes can be a great, lean, plant-based source of protein as well. Try subbing a black bean burger for your usual hot dog at the next company picnic.

At our men’s health center, we care about the wellbeing of your heart. If you have concerns about your heart health, come into Men’s Vitality Center in Glendale today.