Unfortunately, a full two-thirds of American adults are overweight. The obesity crisis – and accumulation of unhealthy belly fat – gets even worse during midlife.

Even a few extra inches of fat around your waist (called “central obesity”) increases your risk of a heart attack, diabetes, or other disease. This belly fat doesn’t just sit there. It actually secretes hormones that not only stimulate your appetite, but also¬†stimulate the development of even more fat cells.

When it comes to eating “heart-healthy,” I recommend a modified plant-based diet that incorporates elements of the so-called Mediterranean diet. A plant-based diet concentrates on raw and cooked vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains, and legumes (beans). The Mediterranean diet allows Greek-style yogurt, olives, goat cheese, and an occasional glass of red wine, lending variety and taste to your diet so you can stick to it.

Here are a few of my favorite diet tips:

  • Red meat should only be eaten on special occasions, and even chicken should be consumed in small portions. I recommend you get most of your animal-based protein from fish.
  • Fill up on vegetables and fruits before anything else. Unlike grains and meat, fruits and vegetables send a clear signal to your brain that you are full, and it’s time to stop eating.
  • When you are “dressing” a salad, use olive oil sparingly in a vinaigrette dressing. Put the dressing to the side, where you can just dip your fork into it as needed.

I realize it’s difficult to make these types of lifestyle changes. But if you are overweight, sedentary, and use poor eating habits – especially eating at fast food restaurants – you will get heart disease, period. So make a decision today to eat right in order to live a life that’s truly worth living. You deserve nothing less.

To Your Best Heart Health,

Chauncey W. Crandall, M.D., F.A.C.C.