Diet and Nutrition

Heart Healthy Eating Q&A

June 21, 2018   /



Reviewed and Updated by Anne Danahy MS, RDN, LDN

This Q&A patient handout highlights questions that patients frequently ask and answers from Nutrition411 Editorial Board Member Anne Danahy, MS, RDN, LDN. Anne is a registered dietitian nutritionist in Scottsdale, Arizona, with almost 20 years of outpatient clinical and community nutrition experience. She is also a board member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


My doctor told me to change my diet to help reduce my risk of developing heart problems. Why?

Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. Improving your diet and lifestyle can help prevent heart disease, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Whether you already have heart disease or are at risk for heart disease, you can benefit from a healthy diet and regular exercise.


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What can I do to reduce my risk for heart disease?

Because many of the major risk factors for heart disease are controllable, The AHA recommends making several lifestyle changes for heart attack and heart disease prevention. They include:

  • Aim for a healthy weight
  • Be physically active every day
  • Choose good nutrition
  • Limit alcohol
  • Manage diabetes
  • Manage high blood cholesterol
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Reduce stress
  • Stop smoking

That sounds daunting. How can I meet all of those goals?

The AHA’s diet and lifestyle recommendations for heart disease can help you achieve most of their goals for risk reduction. Modifying your diet and lifestyle can improve your body weight, blood lipid levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. These recommendations include:

  • Use up at least as many calories as you take in
  • Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all of the food groups
  • Eat fewer of the nutrient-poor foods
  • As you make daily food choices, base your eating pattern on the healthy eating recommendations which include:
    • Adding more fruits and vegetables
    • Choosing high fiber whole grains
    • Choosing lean meats like skinless poultry and fish, and trimming any visible fat
    • Eating a variety of fish at least twice per week
    • Selecting fat-free or-low fat dairy products
  • Do not smoke tobacco and avoid second-hand smoke


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