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Heart Smart Living
Heart Smart Living

Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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Women, Heart Disease, and Diet: What the New Guidelines Say

A healthy heart thrives on a healthy diet. My patients hear that from me at every office visit, and my book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Heart Health, is full of information about heart smart eating, but putting that message into practice takes personal commitment and dedication. It helps to have a roadmap to guide you along the way. That is why I was so glad to see that the new American Heart Association “Guidelines for the Prevention of Heart Disease in Women” included very specific dietary recommendations. Although the guidelines were written for women, men can also make use of this information. To keep it simple, I’ve summarized the recommendations for you here:

  • Fruits and vegetables:  at least 4.5 cups daily
  • Fish: 3.5 ounces twice weekly
  • Fiber: 30 grams each day
  • Whole grains: three servings each day
  • Sugar: five or fewer servings each week  (one serving equals one tablespoon of sugar or jam, one cup of lemonade, or half a cup of sorbet)
  • Nuts, legumes, and seeds: at least four servings each week (1.5 ounces nuts, two tablespoons peanut butter, one half cup cooked  beans or peas)
  • Saturated fat: less than seven percent of total calories
  • Cholesterol: less than 150 mg each day
  • Alcohol: no more than one drink daily
  • Sodium: less than 1500 mg daily
  • Trans fats: none

You can see that in order to follow the guidelines, you’ll need to know something about the nutritional content of the food that you’re eating. It’s really not hard to do. There are numerous free websites with nutritional databases that help you to track your calories and exercise. I like the USDA’s My Pyramid Tracker, but you can find many commercial websites with even more comprehensive databases. It might take a bit of work at first, but the great news is that once you start making smarter choices, you’ll feel so much better that you won’t ever want to go back.

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Tags: Diet and Heart Health , Women and Heart Health

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About the Author


Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.