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By Dr. James M Stewart

The heart is at the center of the vasculature system which includes all of the arteries and veins through which blood flows. The heart is the most dependable muscle in your body. Over the average person’s lifespan, it will beat around 100,000 times per day, which amounts to around 2.5 billion heartbeats. That’s a lot of work—and the heart needs as much help as it can get.

There are several things you can do to improve your heart health. Diet and obesity are clearly linked to heart disease. Over the last 100 years, with changes to how we grow and distribute our food, the American diet has changed greatly. For the most part, this has led to greater access to food at a lower cost, but has led to eating in a way that can damage our hearts. All of those extra calories create fat and cholesterol deposits in our arteries, leading to heart disease. As gastroenterologists, we encourage people to make wise decisions about the foods they eat to improve their heart health and increase their quality of life. Here are some suggestions to help improve your heart health through good dietary choices:

–Eat enough calories to manage body weight

–Make a goal to eat least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day, including a variety of dark-green, red, and orange vegetables, beans, and peas

–Reduce fatty meats by substituting seafood (including oily fish) in place of some meat and poultry

–Choose whole grains (brown rice, oats, quinoa, etc.) in place of white flour and white rice to increase fiber

–Use oils to replace solid fats like butter

–Use fat-free or low-fat versions of milk and cheese products

–Additionally, we recommend against smoking tobacco and seeing your doctors if there is history of heart disease in your family

For more information as well as some recipe suggestions, please see the following link:

Smart Eating from the American Heart Association