- Reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to no more than 36 ounces a week for a total of 450 calories. "Americans are consuming way more added sugars than we should," says Johnson — not the sugars that occur naturally in foods such as milk and fruits, but those that are added in processing and preparation. "The average American consumes about 22 teaspoons a day of added sugar," she says, "and sugar-sweetened beverages are the number one source of those added sugars." The AHA recommends limiting added sugars to no more than six teaspoons a day for women and nine teaspoons a day for men — and drinking water instead of sweetened beverages.
Several of the specific steps also advance an overall AHA goal for a heart-healthy diet: helping patients achieve and maintain a healthy weight. "We know that as we age, there's that creep of a couple of pounds a year and before you know it, you're out of your healthy weight range," Johnson says. "So it's critical to achieve that appropriate energy balance, which means balancing your level of physical activity and the calories you eat."
Johnson knows that even when eating more healthfully may be a life-or-death matter, heart patients can struggle with it. "To me, the take-away message is, there's not one size that fits all," says Johnson. "The key is to find what works best for you, and make changes that you're going to be able to sustain."
To get started in the right direction, the AHA shared a week’s worth of recipes to help you eat for heart health.