Congestive heart failure affects around 6 million Americans with almost 700,000 being diagnosed each year. In fact, Black Americans have the highest rate of heart failure than any other race/ethnic group. However, congestive heart failure does not mean impending doom. What it does mean is that adjustments are needed to support heart health and live a healthier life. Considering how to make healthier choices in all aspects of your life is a holistic and sustainable way to protect your heart health.
Put Yourself First
As mentioned before, congestive heart failure is not an automatic path to deteriorating health. Take the diagnosis as a serious opportunity to take charge and support your own health. Make a diagnosis an impetus, not a demotivator.
Additionally, receiving a diagnosis also sparks an initial conversation with your physician on how to proceed. Your care team should suggest habits and activities that can help turn your health around. Use this conversation as a foundation for how to proceed.
Center a Heart Healthy Diet
While no one diet will cure heart diseases, there are certain foods and food groups that can help support a healthy heart. Below are some food groups to consider adding to your diet:
- Leafy green vegetables: Think kale, spinach, and collard. Go for vegetables with a deep green color that have a bit more volume. The awesome thing about these vegetables is they can be added to a variety of recipes. Spinach can easily be added to smoothies and kale is an amazing addition to soups, pastas, or as a side salad. Leafy green vegetables contain vitamin K which helps with arteries and promotes proper clotting.
- Whole grains: One of the easiest food groups to find and cook in recipes. Whole grains are higher in fiber which lowers LDL cholesterol and helps with heart health. Whole grains can be found in whole wheat products, brown rice, quinoa, and oats, among others. Start the day with a bowl of oatmeal customizable with berries (also a heart-healthy food), bananas, coconut flakes, honey, chia seeds, or whatever toppings you desire. Brown rice is a versatile side that can be accompanied by whatever protein and vegetables you like.
- Fatty fish and fish oil: This one is for salmon lovers! Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are full of omega-3 fatty acids which have been connected with better heart health. Studies have found that increased consumption of fatty fish leads to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and fasting blood sugar. For those who do not like fish, fish oil supplements are an alternative that provides the same benefits.
- Dark chocolate: An unexpected but much-loved addition to this list! Dark chocolate has flavonoids, which are tied to improved heart health. There is not a clear explanation for why this connection exists, but those who consistently eat dark chocolate have observed a lower risk of calcified arteries. However, keep in mind that chocolate can be high in sugar. Be sure to choose high-quality dark chocolate with higher percentages of cocoa powder (at least 70%).
Exercise can be an exciting outlet for some, but a complete chore for others. However, regular exercise is tied to