The Top 5 Worst Foods for your Heart

Take care of your heart!Happy Heart Month! February is healthy heart month, and an excellent time to look at ways to prevent stroke and heart disease.

A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people whose sugar intake was about a quarter or more of their total daily calories had twice the risk of dying from heart disease. Leading a healthy lifestyle can prevent most cardiovascular disease. Nutritious food, exercise, stress management can all be such powerful tools to help the body prevent and reduce one’s risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Listed below, however, are my top 5 WORST foods for your heart. Avoid these suckers like the plague, and keep your ticker happy!

1. Processed Meats

Deli meats, bacon, sausage and hot dogs are loaded with sodium and preservatives, and often contain nitrites or nitrates. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure and water retention putting more stress on the heart and blood vessels. A new review in the British Journal of Cancer suggests a link between processed meats -- like bacon and sausages -- and an increased pancreatic cancer risk. 

2. Donuts, Pastries, Cookies

Trans fats are created through processes that make vegetable oils more solid, according to the American Heart Association. They are used to make packaged and prepared foods last longer. These bad fats raise LDL or “bad” cholesterol while also lowering HDL or “good” cholesterol, thereby putting your heart at risk. Beware of hydrogenated oils found in packaged snacks, baked goods and some margarines.

3. Fried Foods

Trans fats are often found in deep fried foods such as fish and chips, tempura and wings. These fats have the ability to cause chronic inflammation, the root cause of heart disease.

4. Soda

Most people think of lowering their fat content in their diet with heart disease, but sugar is just as bad! Sugar has a huge impact on obesity, insulin levels and the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Harvard researchers found that men who drank one sugar-sweetened beverage per day had a 20 percent increased risk of heart attack compared to those who abstained from the sugary drinks, according to the study published in the journal Circulation. And sorry, ladies, but you're not off the hook, either: soda consumption has been linked to heart disease in women, as well.

5. Fast Foods

There is nothing healthy about fast foods. Too much sugar, sodium and trans and hydrogenated fats are a recipe for disaster and contribute to so many health conditions including heart disease and diabetes.