One out of every four deaths in the United States every year are caused by heart disease. Killing 610,000 people every year, it is the most common cause of death for both men and women.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common form of heart disease, account for nearly two-thirds of all related deaths. While aging contributes to the likelihood of developing CAD, it’s caused by the build-up of plaque in the wall of your arteries to slow or even stop the blood from flowing through your arteries.

Here’s what you need to know about the leading cause of death for Americans: it’s preventable.

What’s the best way to prevent CAD and maintain a healthy heart for life? By eating foods to prevent heart disease.

Heart Healthy Eating: How Your Diet is the Biggest Predictor of Heart Disease

It’s fairly well recognized that a nutritious diet is the key to achieving overall health.

Yet, we continue to focus on finding cures for diseases that we can largely prevent through a natural cure: eating foods to prevent heart attack and stroke.

There’s real science behind the prevention of heart disease.

One peer-reviewed study showed that when people eat a balanced diet of fruit, vegetable, and protein from fish, they lower their risk of death from heart attack by as much as 35%.

Eating well lowers your chance of dying from heart disease by a third – and that doesn’t’ even include other interventions like exercise or heart medication. In fact, you’d need a drawer of pills to replicate the benefits of naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and fats.

The most effective medication for stopping heart disease only cuts the risk by 25%.

If you’re like most of us, you’re probably wondering about all the french fries you’ve eaten prior to reading this article. But even if you’ve eaten the Standard American Diet, you can still use diet to lower your risk of disease.

By starting now, you can still have a 70% effect on avoiding heart disease as long as you commit to eating foods to prevent heart disease. Remember, the longer you wait to protect your heart, the more likely it is that you’ll need medication later.

Are you ready to learn the basic building blocks of your new heart-healthy diet?

The 12 Best Foods for Heart Disease

You don’t need to search far and wide to find foods to prevent heart attack and stroke. In fact, most of them are already staples found in your local grocery store.

Meet the 12 new essential foods for your diet:

Kale

Dark leafy greens are the key to overall health and preventing heart disease.

Kale is everything you could ever want in food with antioxidants, omega-3s, folate, potassium, and fiber.

These greens directly combat heart disease because they contain lutein, which protects you from atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when fatty deposits build up in your arteries, and lutein doesn’t just break down those deposits: it prevents them from building up in the first place.

In fact, studies have found that subjects with the highest lutein levels may experience 80% less arterial wall thickening compared to those with the lowest level of lutein in their bodies.

Oranges

Oranges and other citrus fruits are the strongest prescriptions in nature’s pharmacy.

These fruits are full of a fiber called pectin, which absorbs the cholesterol in your food and preventing your body from absorbing it.

Oranges are nature’s pharmacy because scientists have had to develop a prescription drug to do the same thing. Bile acid sequestrants are used as a method of controlling your blood pressure in the same way the potassium and citrus pectin do.

Salmon

Salmon and other oily fish are the keys to unlocking heart health because of the level of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids contained in each serving.

In fact, salmon is the perfect way to get the protein you need without worrying about the issues associated with red meat. Eat salmon and other oily fish like mackerel and sardines twice a week to dramatically reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death.

Red Wine

Red wine prevents the build-up of plaque in your arteries by helping out your good cholesterol. Unfortunately, achieving these benefits requires 16 bottles a day, which may help your heart but would ultimately kill your liver.

Recent research says you should drink wine not to avoid plaque but to add polyphenols to your diet. Polyphenols keep your blood vessels flexible while lowering the likelihood of developing blood clots.

Not a red wine drinker? You’ll get many of the same benefits from a pint of Guinness or another porter.

Garlic

Garlic offers some of the similar benefits as kale including the prevention of atherosclerosis and lowering both cholesterol and blood pressure.

Although it’s often used as a seasoning, fresh garlic is a superfood. Its properties aren’t only the leading contributors to preventing heart disease: they also target cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Oatmeal

Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal, and you’ll add years’ worth of breakfasts onto your life.

Oatmeal is high in fiber, which is important for managing your cholesterol. Like citrus fruits, the fiber soaks up the bad cholesterol and prevents it from entering into your bloodstream.

Head for the whole, rolled oats for best results. Instant oatmeal often includes sugar or other additives that may negate the benefits of this hearty breakfast.

Nuts

Go wild for nuts to enjoy the fiber and vitamin E you need to lower bad cholesterol while improving the amount of good fats included in your diet.

Some people are afraid of nuts because of the long-standing fear of fat, but the fat found in nuts is good for your heart.

Still, there is one thing to watch out for: salt. Many food manufacturers over roast and over salt their nuts, which negates some of the healthy properties otherwise found in nuts.

Soy

One of the hardest parts of eating foods to prevent heart disease is avoiding red meat. While red meat includes more fat than you need, you also need to get enough protein to feed your muscles. After all, your heart is one of the most important muscles in your body.

Soy is a low-fat, plant-based protein offering the chance to create a balanced diet without worrying about the added fat or the stress animal-protein places on your kidneys.

Legumes

Legumes offer the opportunity to add healthy protein to your diet without having to worry about all the fat found in animal products.

These beans and peas are also ideal for those managing diabetes. It’s thought that legumes can control your blood sugar, which in turn controls your diabetes. This is important for those with pre-diabetes because heart disease is one of the most serious complications of diabetes.

Green Tea

Tea is a staple of health in Asia, and now the West is getting a taste of what these magical leaves can contribute to longevity.

Green tea contains incredible amounts of valuable antioxidants, including catechins, which reduce the risk of cardiac disease and stroke. Scientists aren’t certain why this is the case, but studies have found that those who drink several cups of green per day see a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who don’t.

Coffee

Your morning cup of coffee may lower your risk of heart disease by 10 to 15% – if you drink two to six cups per day.

For most of us, coffee is already a part of our daily life, but it’s still good to know we’re already making heart-healthy choices.

However, there is one caveat. While black coffee lowers your risk of heart attack and stroke, not all coffee meets these criteria. Coffees pumped up with sugar and unhealthy fats negate the benefits by contributing to high cholesterol and promoting belly fat- two important indicators of heart disease risk.

Avocado

Avocados are a fast favorite of the millennial generation, but these soft fruits aren’t the indulgence they’re made out to be.

Avocado is rich in healthy, monounsaturated fats that lower your cholesterol and therefore heart disease risk.

In addition to being full of healthy fats, they also offer plenty of potassium and antioxidants to support your overall health.

So add some avocado to your scrambled adds, mash some on some toast, or dip into the guacamole. Avocados are the indulgence we all deserve.

Bonus: Dark Chocolate

What’s a balanced diet without a bit of dessert?

Dark chocolate contains flavanols, which improve the flexibility of your blood vessels and keep your blood pressure low.

For the best results, look for minimally processed cocoa without out excessive added sugar. If you can, search out a brand of chocolate known for being high in flavanols.

Eat Your Way to Longer, Healthier Life

Heart disease is the biggest killer in America – and you can prevent it without ever visiting the doctor.

By eating foods to prevent heart disease, you can lower your risk of heart disease and death by up to 30% – and you get to eat a diet full of nutritious, delicious foods that make you feel good.

Have you switched to a heart-healthy diet? Share your stories in the comments below.

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