The number of deaths from heart disease has decreased by 60% in the last 40 years, thanks to improved preventative and treatment strategies. However, it still remains the leading cause of death in the United States today.

Recently, Kounsel brought Lissette Llamas on to talk about ways to build a healthier heart through nutrition. She recommends several lifestyle and diet plans that can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Heart disease basics

There are many types of heart disease. Some of the most common ones are:

There are several factors that can put you at increased risk for heart disease. The most notable ones include:

A good diet can help combat the risk of heart disease and decrease these risk factors.

Llamas says that there isn’t one particular eating pattern that will work for everyone. It depends on your health as well as your personal preferences.


DASH diet

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet focuses on healthy eating to help lower or maintain a healthy blood pressure.

Four to five servings a day of fresh fruits and vegetables are recommended, as well as six to nine servings of greens. Six or fewer servings of lean protein and four to five servings of legumes and nuts help provide protein. Two to three servings of low-fat dairy are also recommended unless you have an allergy or intolerance to dairy. Sweets should be limited.

You can find more specific recommendations based on your calorie intake on the DASH diet website. Additionally, you can download a worksheet from the website if you want to more closely track your servings and portions.

Vegetarian/Vegan diet

A vegetarian/vegan diet consists of larger amounts of fruits and vegetables and does not include meat. In the case of a vegan diet, no animal products are included (such as dairy).

Whole grains, legumes, beans, lentils, and soy products are all large parts of the vegetarian/vegan diet.

This diet also emphasizes other factors that are important to a healthy lifestyle, namely physical activity, social connections, and methods to release stress.

Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet, similar to the DASH and vegetarian/vegan diets, emphasizes eating lots of fruits and vegetables. The Mediterranean diet pyramid includes suggestions for what to eat every day, most days, and less often.

Generally, the Mediterranean diet includes eating a large portion of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as focusing on fish and seafoods for protein intake over poultry and dairy. Other meats and sweets should be limited to once per month.

The Mediterranean diet also recommends being physically active and to enjoy meals with others.

Healthy Plate

The Healthy Plate method helps provide an overall picture of what a healthy eating pattern can look like. Again, this includes an emphasis on fruits and vegetables.

The Healthy Plate diet also includes lean protein options and whole grain options, and recommends that half of your plate be filled with non-starchy vegetables and fruits.

Other tips to lower risk factors

In addition to these diets, Llamas recommends generally eating foods that are low in sodium to help lower blood pressure. Low sodium food means those containing under 5% sodium. Llamas suggests gradually reducing your salt intake in order to help your taste buds adjust. Additionally, rinsing your canned foods four times can reduce the sodium in it.


It is also important not to smoke, to get regular physical activity, and practice stress reduction techniques. Start small with these changes in order to make them a regular part of your lifestyle. Plan ahead, set smart goals, and get support from others to start living healthier and happier.

About Lissette Llamas:

Lissette Llamas is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. She is bilingual and of Mexican heritage. She graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a BS in Food and Nutrition Science and completed her dietetic internship at Sea Mar Community Health Centers. She has worked at community clinics serving low-income families and enjoys tailoring nutrition to individual cultural needs by honoring cultural food preferences. She is currently licensed in Washington, Florida, Nevada, and Maryland. You can reach out to her on Kounsel.