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Feed Your Heart

February 10, 2019

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States, and 1 in 3 adults will be diagnosed in their lifetime. Show your heart a little love during American Heart Month with these healthy habit ideas and resources.

Balance Your Diet

A balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, healthy fats, and moderate dairy is linked to optimal health, including the health of our hearts.

  • Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the day to increase vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant intake that will help prevent disease.
  • Prioritize lean proteins like skinless chicken and turkey, fish, and plant proteins like nuts and legumes.
  • Choose whole grains like brown rice, whole or multi-grain breads and pastas, and oats for added fiber.
  • Add in healthy fats from fish and plant sources, including nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, and vegetable oils.
  • Balance the meal with a moderate intake of dairy for calcium. 

The nutrients you get from a balanced diet will help support healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure levels. They will also help the body fight disease as we age, so we can enjoy long, healthy lives!

Reduce Saturated Fats

Saturated fats, which are solid at room temperature, are found in animal products like beef, pork, lamb, milk, cheese, and butter. Eat less of these meats, and choose lower-fat dairy.

But not all fats are bad! In fact, healthy fats provide necessary nutrients. Examples of healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, non-tropical vegetable oils, and fish. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish and some seeds (flax and chia) are especially helpful to heart health. Omega-3 fatty acids are shown to decrease the risk of irregular heartbeat, lower triglycerides, slow the growth of plaque in the arteries, and decrease blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week. Choose a variety in order to avoid the risk of environmental pollutants that may be found in fish.

Be Mindful of Sugar

Added sugars can lead to excessive caloric intake, which can increase your risk for heart disease. Reduce sugar intake by avoiding excess consumption of sweetened drinks, candies, and desserts. Try drinking water instead of sodas or sweetened tea, and replace your daily candy or dessert choice with a lower-sugar option like dark chocolate or fresh fruit. Enjoy your favorite sugary goodies once or twice a week, in smaller portions.

Break Up With Tobacco

Smoking is incredibly dangerous for our health. Nicotine, a harmful and addictive chemical found in tobacco, leads to increased blood pressure, heart rate, and narrowing of the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack. Cigarette smoke also contains carbon monoxide, a harmful gas that damages the heart and lungs. Smoking and secondhand smoke can lead to even more unwanted health issues, including lung cancer and asthma. Find free support and resources from the TN Tobacco Quitline 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Move Your Body

The U.S. Department of Health recommends at least 150 minutes of heart-pumping activity per week for adults to reduce their risk of heart disease. Exercise increases blood flow, helps lower blood pressure, and supports a healthy weight, which will all help lower your heart disease risk. Additional benefits to exercise include increased muscle mass, more stabilized blood sugar levels, increased energy, better sleep, enhanced mood, and more!

Attend a free fitness class at your library branch, and try out these simple ideas to fit in movement throughout your day!



Erin Judge


Erin is a nutrition educator with Be Well at NPL, working to bring easy-to-digest nutrition information in the hands of all Nashvillians. If she's not in the kitchen or reading up on the latest nutrition research, you can find her running the local trails with her dog.