Nutrition and Cardiovascular Health

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The leading cause of death in the United States is from atherosclerotic coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD is a disease of the blood vessels of the heart known as the “coronary arteries”. When these arteries become narrowed and/or clogged with plaque, build up of cholesterol and fat deposits, the process is called atherosclerosis. The build up of the plaque results in a reduced blood supply to the heart which causes the CHD. Symptoms of CHD are chest pain also known as angina, and heart attacks.

Angina occurs when blood flow to the heart is not enough for times of increased needs like during times of exercise or strenuous physical activity. The disease can result in a heart attack when a blood clot suddenly forms and attaches itself to the fatty deposits and completely blocks blood flow to the heart. The amount of time of the blockage is the main determinant of heart damage, the longer the blockage the more risk of heart damage. Death is sometimes the outcome of a heart attack.

The good news is that compared to 40 years ago the age-adjusted death toll has declined by 40%. Medical treatments and advancements have played a significant role in reducing the death toll but so have modifiable lifestyle trends like smoking cessation and dietary changes. The known unmodifiable risk factors to heart disease are family history or genetic predisposition, male gender, and aging. The list of known modifiable risk factors are: dyslipidemia, diabetes, physical inactivity, obesity, hypertension, smoking, psychological stress, and elevated homocysteine lev- els. Appropriate diet changes can alone reduce 4 out of the 8 known modifiable risk factors: dyslipidemia, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.

Some Suggested Dietary Changes to Reduce Risk of CHD

  • Limit fat intake to less than 30% of total calories and no more than 10% of total calories from saturated fats. Example you eat 2000 calories a day no more than 600 calories should come from fat and no more than 200 calories from saturated fats. Fat equals 9 calories per gram . With a little math and reading the nutrition facts labels on food you can easily figure out how many fat calories you had each day.
  • Remove Trans Fats from your diet altogether. Switch to polyunsaturated fats like: safflower, sunflower, and corn oils or even better to monounsaturated fats like: olive and canola oils.
  • Add Omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. These fats are found in fish and flax seeds.
  • Increase intake of fiber to at least 10 grams a day.
  • Consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
  • Ensure adequate intake of folic acid found in fortified cereals and orange juice to lower homocysteine levels. 


Information from: Cardiovascular Nutrition from Webdietitian,; Angina and Coronary Artery Disease-UMMX, Nutrition Education for FEBRUARY 2007. Produced by Meals On Wheels, Inc., of Tarrant County by Sherry Simon, R.D./L.D. For questions regarding nutrition education contact: Sherry Simon, R.D./L.D., Director of Nutrition Services for Meals On Wheels, Inc. of Tarrant County at 817-336-0912 or email: Website: 

Posted in Nutritional Education.