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heart disease and diet

Alternative Names
coronary heart disease (CHD), coronary artery disease (CAD), cardiovascular disease (CVD)

Heart disease is a broad term for any condition that involves the heart and blood vessels. This includes: Certain major risk factors have been shown to increase a person's chances of developing heart disease. Other contributing factors have been identified, though less conclusively, to increase one's risk. Some of these risk and contributing factors are preventable, even treatable.

Major risk factors include:
  • having a family history of heart disease
  • early heart attack or sudden death of father or brother before the age of 55
  • early heart attack or sudden death of mother or sister before the age of 65
  • increasing age, 45 years or older for men and 55 years or older for women
  • being male
Preventable or treatable risk factors include: Contributing factors include: What is the information for this topic?
To achieve an overall healthy eating pattern.
  • Choose an overall balanced diet with foods from all major food groups, emphasising fruits, vegetables and grains.
  • Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables. Choose 5 or more servings per day.
  • Consume a variety of grain products, including whole grains. Choose 6 or more servings per day.
  • Include fat-free and low-fat dairy products, fish, legumes, poultry, and lean meats.
  • Eat at least 2 servings of fish per week.
To achieve a healthy body weight.
  • Avoid excess intake of kilojoules.
  • Maintain a level of physical activity that achieves fitness and balances energy expenditure with kilojoule intake. For weight reduction, kilojoules burned should exceed kilojoules consumed.
  • Limit foods that are high in kilojoules and/or low in nutritional quality, including those with a high amount of added sugar.
To achieve a desirable cholesterol level.
  • Limit foods with a high content of saturated fat and cholesterol. Substitute grains and unsaturated fat from vegetables, fish, legumes, and nuts for animal fats.
  • Limit cholesterol to 300 milligrams (mg) a day for the general population and 200 mg a day for those with heart disease or its risk factors.
  • Limit trans fatty acids. Trans fatty acids are found in foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, such as packaged cookies, crackers and other baked goods, commercially prepared fried foods, and some margarines.
Achieve a desirable blood pressure level.
  • Limit salt intake to less than 6 grams or 2,400 mg of sodium per day, slightly more than 1 teaspoon a day.
  • If you drink, limit alcohol consumption to no more than 2 drinks per day for women and 4 drinks per day for men.
Author: Kimberly Tessmer, RD, LD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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