What is Heart Disease?


Heart disease – also called cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease – is a term used to describe several problems related to plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries (also known as atherosclerosis). As the plaque builds up, the arteries narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow.


This creates increased risk for a heart attack or stroke. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease. It is the leading cause of death in the United States in both men and women. Other types of heart disease include heart failure, an irregular heartbeat – or arrhythmia – and heart valve problems.


For more information related to this topic, visit the Heart Disease Health Center on Eat Right for Life.   


What type of diet helps manage Heart Disease?


As part of a heart healthy diet, an adult consuming 2,000 calories daily should aim for:

  • Fruits and vegetables: At least 4.5 cups a day
  • Fish (preferably oily fish): At least two 3.5-ounce servings a week
  • Fiber-rich whole grains: At least three 1-ounce-equivalent servings a day
  • Sodium: Less than 1,500 mg a day
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: No more than 450 calories (36 ounces) a week

Other Dietary Measures:

  • Nuts, legumes and seeds: At least 4 servings a week
  • Processed meats: No more than 2 servings a week
  • Saturated fat: Less than 7% of total energy (i.e. calorie) intake




The food guide, called Choose My Plate, offers recommendations to help you eat a healthy diet. My Plate can help you eat a variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat. The United States Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have launched ChooseMyPlate.gov to assist you in selecting healthy foods.




My Plate is divided into five food group categories, emphasizing nutritional intake of the following:

  • Grains. Foods that are made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain are grain products. Examples include whole wheat, brown rice, and oatmeal.
  • Vegetables. Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety of vegetables, including those that are dark green, red, and orange; legumes (peas and beans); and starchy vegetables.
  • Fruits. Any fruit or 100 percent fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed.
  • Dairy. Milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group. Focus on fat-free or low-fat products, as well as those that are high in calcium. Consider options like soy, rice, and almond milk that have 130 or fewer calories per 8 oz as an alternative to dairy, if you are lactose intolerant.
  • Protein. Go lean on protein. Choose low-fat or lean meats and poultry. Vary your protein routine -- choose more fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.


Oils are not a food group, yet some, such as nut oils, contain essential nutrients and can be included in your diet. Others, such as animal fats, are solid and you should avoid them.


You should also include exercise and every day physical activity with your healthy dietary plan.


In addition to MyPlate, you may visit Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 to determine the appropriate dietary recommendations for your age, sex, and physical activity level. Please note that the My Plate plan is designed for people older than age 2, who do not have chronic health conditions.


Always consult your health care provider regarding your healthy diet and exercise requirements.