With heart disease as the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, paying attention to your heart health is more important than ever (1). Although it may seem as if eating heart healthy foods is synonymous with a bland diet, there are actually many foods that are great for your heart and tasty, too. Here is a list of incredibly tasty foods that are good for the heart. But first–a little lesson on heart health!
The Basics of Heart Health
Your heart truly is the most important muscle in your body. It beats over 100,000 times a day and pumps and five or six quarts of blood each minute (2). The outside of your heart is all muscles, but the inside is made of 4 hollow chambers.
The top of the right side of the heart receives blood from the veins, and the bottom right side pushes it towards the lung to be oxygenated. Oxygenated blood comes back to the heart through the top left side and is pushed by the bottom left towards the aorta and back into circulation (3). The heart doesn’t receive oxygen or nutrients when it’s filled with blood. Instead, it’s fed through a system of coronary arteries that branch off from the aorta (4).
When arterial plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, inactive collateral vessels take on the extra work to make sure your heart is protected and nourished.
According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease is an incredibly common and deadly condition. The term “heart disease” often refers to cardiovascular disease, a condition in which blood vessels are too narrow or too congested with plaque to ensure proper heart function. The condition can lead to heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke (5).
True heart disease, on the other hand, isn’t just one condition: it’s an umbrella term from illnesses of the heart (6).
- Blood vessel diseases, such as coronary artery disease
- Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias)
- Heart defects you’re born with (congenital heart defects)
Symptoms of heart disease can include (7):
- Chest pain (angina)
- Shortness of breath
- Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms
- Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back
Each specific condition also has its own set of symptoms.