New Diet, Exercise Guideline for Heart Health


New guideline outlines the best dietary pattern and exercise for heart health

Americans shouldn’t sweat satisfying a sweet tooth with a slice of cake or ice cream every now and then. More critical to wellness is maintaining an overall heart-healthy dietary pattern than avoiding occasional indulgences, according to a new lifestyle management guideline from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology.

Exercise 40 minutes three to four times a week

Just 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise three to four times a week was also found to be sufficient for most people. Even brisk walking will do.

The new recommendations are designed for people who need to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Many Americans fit that category: About one-third of U.S. adults have elevated levels of bad cholesterol, and nearly two-thirds have high blood pressure or prehypertension.

Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, nuts

Recommended are dietary patterns that emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and nuts.

Avoid red meat, sugary and processed foods

Red meat and sugary foods and beverages should be limited. Many diets would work, including the DASH eating plan and plans suggested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Heart Association.

“Eating a healthy diet is not about good foods and bad foods in isolation from the rest of your diet – it’s about the overall diet,” said Robert Eckel, M.D., co-chair of a 19-member expert committee that wrote the guideline. Eckel is also a past American Heart Association president.

Reduce sodium intake to lower blood pressure

The overall dietary pattern should include less sodium, the guideline says. For people who need to lower their blood pressure, the guideline recommends an initial step-down approach to no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day. Currently, the average American adult consumes about 3,600 milligrams daily.

Americans can lower blood pressure even further by getting sodium down to 1,500 mg a day. Cutting out processed foods high in sodium may be necessary to stay below that threshold.

“We all eat too much sodium, and this guideline provides further evidence that we’d all do well to eat less of it,” Eckel said.

Learn ways to live healthy and reduce your risk for heart disease on Go Red.