Diet plays an important role in maintaining a healthy heart. The Healthy Heart Handbook for Women (pdf), published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), recommends the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” published jointly by HHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as a source for science-based advice on diet and exercise.

The guidelines recommend:

  • Emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products (five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables are recommended per day).
  • Including lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts in eating plans.
  • Choice of foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt and sodium, and added sugars.
  • Balancing the calories taken in with the calories that are needed.

In addition, women with high blood pressure may want to follow an eating plan called “DASH” (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which contains less salt/sodium, sweets, added sugars, sugar-containing beverages, fats and red meats than the typical American diet. Another program called “Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes” (TLC) can help lower high blood cholesterol and protect health.

The Healthy Heart Handbook for Women (pdf) describes “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” DASH, TLC and other dietary issues on pages 63-82

Also on the web

The American Heart Association’s page on healthy eating offers nutritional information and recipes.