Heart Health: Eating for a Healthy Heart, facts on saturated fat, DASH diet and potassium

Heart Health: What Really Matters

Did you know …

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S.?
  • About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. every year, accounting for one in every four deaths?1 
  • Every year about 720,000 Americans have a heart attack?2
  • Coronary heart disease alone costs the U.S. $108.9 billion each year?3

Not only does heart disease result in an immense financial cost for health care services, medications, and lost productivity, it results in significant pain, debilitation and loss of quality of life. 

Obviously, prevention is key to heart health. So, what are the key components to maintaining a healthy heart throughout life? You may be surprised at what is … and what is not so … important, as the conventional wisdom on maintaining a healthy heart has changed.

What Experts Agree On

Healthy Eating

A balanced eating pattern with foods from all five food groups is
key to preventing disease + promoting a healthy life style. One such pattern is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet.

A number of studies have found the DASH eating plan—a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods, with reduced saturated and total fat—can substantially lower blood pressure. This eating plan, originally published in 1997, not only reduces blood pressure, it can also lower risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.9

Some specifics:

  • The blood-pressure lowering effect of the DASH Diet is stronger in those with mild hypertension and in certain ethnic groups (such as African-Americans).
  • The DASH diet seems to be as effective as some medications at lowering blood pressure in people with mild hypertension. 
  • A low-sodium DASH diet may have even greater effects on blood pressure.

Researchers estimate that if all Americans followed the DASH diet heart disease cases would be reduced by 15 percent and stroke by 27 percent nationwide. That translates into 225,000 fewer heart attacks and 100,000 fewer strokes every year.10

Best of all, the plan is based on normal, convenient foods and simple recipes … no special dietary supplements or foods are needed.  For more information on this very effective dietary pattern, including servings from each food group based on energy needs, click here

Read more on healthy eating with the DASH Diet.

Add in Exercise
While at Work, Home
or On-the-Go

Heart Health Controversy

Hot Topic


If you want a heart healthy diet, be sure you’re eating potassium-rich foods. Learn more about this key nutrient in heart health and foods high in potassium here.

What Experts Agree on

Healthy Weight + Physical Activity

What Experts Agree On: Achieving a Healthy Weight

woman on scale become a healthy weightOverweight and obesity are two of the biggest factors leading to heart disease. People who are overweight (have a BMI of 25 or greater) have a higher risk of heart attack than those at a healthy weight.4  Data from the Framingham Heart Study and other studies indicate that the degree of overweight is directly related to the development of coronary heart disease.5

This is particularly true in people who are overweight around their middle—who have ‘apple-shaped’ bodies. Visceral fat—fat around the abdomen—is correlated to heart disease more than subcutaneous fat, due to its metabolism. As a result, leading experts propose that a 40-inch waist in men and 35-inch waist in women predict an increased risk for heart disease.6

Experts say that even a small amount of weight loss—dropping as little as 5 to 10 percent of one’s current weight—can greatly improve one’s risk of heart disease.6

For a quick and easy assessment of body weight status and current diet, and suggestions on how to improve, use the Healthy Eating Planner


  1. Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD. Deaths: Final data for 2010 Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2013;61(4). http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_04.pdf.
  2. Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Blaha MJ, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2014 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2014 ;128.
  3. Heidenreich PA, Trogdon JG, Khavjou OA, et al. Forecasting the future of cardiovascular disease in the United States: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2011;123:933-44. Epub 2011 Jan 24.
  4. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/113/6/898.full.
  5. Kannel,W.B., D’Agostino R.B., Cobb J.L. Effect of weight on cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr March 1996vol. 63 no. 3 419S-422S.
  6. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/risk.htm.
  7. http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2014/04/15/bjsports-2013-093090.abstract.
  8. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/American-Heart-Association-Recommendations-for-Physical-Activity-in-Adults_UCM_307976_Article.jsp.
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25430608.
  10. http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/apr97/nhlbi-16.htm.