How Does a Poor Diet Cause Heart Disease?

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Eating well can be a challenge, especially when you lead a fast-paced lifestyle. While a little indulgence or the occasional fast-food meal won’t necessarily hurt you, too much unhealthy food can increase your risk for heart disease. Knowing what impact your diet can have on your heart will help you improve your chances of avoiding potential complications.


Everyone’s body needs fats. However, when a person overindulges or eats too much of the wrong fats, health problems can occur. While all fat intake should be limited in your diet, the American Heart Association reports that reducing your intake of saturated fats and trans fats can make a significant reduction in your risk for heart disease. Choose foods with unsaturated fats, such as monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats and reduce the amount of butter and shortening in your diet and replacing them with healthier oils such as olive or canola. Limiting your saturated fat intake to less than 7 grams daily and eating a maximum of 1 gram of trans fat a day are also recommended.


High cholesterol poses a major risk for heart disease. High cholesterol levels increase buildup in the arteries, which can lead to artery hardening, a heart attack or stroke. The average adult should have no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol every day; however, those with pre-existing cholesterol problems should reduce this number to 200 milligrams. Many foods with high cholesterol levels are also high in the wrong kinds of fats; however, to avoid surpassing your cholesterol, learn to read food labels and try tracking your daily intake.

Excess Calories

Too many calories in the diet can increase a person’s risk of being overweight, which is another leading cause of heart disease. People who are overweight, and especially those who are obese, have a greater risk for heart disease than those who are of average weight, even when other risk factors are similar. In addition, consuming too many fats can also cause you to put on the pounds. Learning to recognize portion sizes can help you avoid accidental overeating. In addition, choosing lower-calorie foods that are nutritionally sound can reduce your risk for heart disease.

Salt and Sodium

Salt, an ingredient in many foods and a favorite seasoning on nearly everyone’s table, is another potentially unhealthy ingredient for your heart. Too much salt can raise blood pressure, which can increase a person’s risk for related heart conditions. Salt is not the only culprit, however. Foods high in sodium can also add to blood pressure problems. The Institute of Medicine recommends keeping sodium intake under 2,300 milligrams daily, which is approximately the same as 1 teaspoon of table salt, but people with heart problems should reduce their intake to 1,500 milligrams. In addition to salt, watch for sodium-filled foods and condiments such as mustard, soy sauce and canned foods.

Junk Foods

Junk foods are any foods that have little nutritional value but are high in calories and other unwanted ingredients like fats, cholesterol and sodium. Junk foods fall into all of these categories; however, they can increase your risk of heart disease in another way. The more junk food a person eats, the less room in their diet for heart-friendly foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.