November 30, 2021
Last Updated:
December 2, 2021

The American Heart Association Updates Its Dietary Guidelines After 15 Years

The American Heart Association (AHA) was founded in 1924, and it has been on a mission ever since to save and improve lives through preventive health measures related to cardiovascular disease. Regardless of whether you have a heart condition, you’re likely to be interested in how to eat and live in order to keep your heart healthy, which is information that the AHA aims to provide.

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States and around the world, meaning that there’s plenty of work to do to improve heart health worldwide. For the first time since 2006, the AHA has updated its dietary guidelines in a major shift toward the future of personalized nutrition.

There are three key updates in the new recommendations that are worth noting:

  1. An emphasis on dietary patterns as opposed to focusing strictly on specific nutrients, leaving more room for personal and individualized food choices
  2. Encouraging consumption of mostly plant-based proteins ‒ with regular intake of fish and seafood, if desired
  3. Minimizing consumption of processed foods, including those with added sugars, as well as limiting alcohol consumption

The association’s recommendations differ from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in that they specifically cover patterns in diet that increase risk for cardiovascular disease as opposed to more general guidelines that need to address the entire population and the many different conditions that could arise from poor diet.

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These new recommendations also emphasize the importance of bringing food and nutrition education into the classroom early, ensuring that children have the tools and knowledge they need to develop into independent adults who understand how to make healthy choices. Furthermore, the association's recommendations acknowledge misinformation and systemic problems such as racism, neighborhood segregation, food insecurity, and targeted marketing, which can be barriers to maintaining heart-healthy eating patterns. The report stated it is a "public health imperative" to work on policies that remove these barriers.

This is certainly a step in the right direction, though there’s more work to be done in promoting nutrition and diet instead of relying solely on medications and procedures. But we also know there’s more than diet that can impact your heart health, such as the quality of your relationships, how much you move during the day, and how well you care for your emotional well-being. These are things IIN has been saying for the past 30 years, and we’re excited that the medical and healthcare communities are finally catching up.

Author Biography
Darrell Rogers
IIN Director of Advocacy

Darrell Rogers began his career in Washington, D.C., 20 years ago and has worked for members of Congress and several notable nonprofit organizations and political campaigns. More recently, his work has been committed to protecting and promoting holistic healthcare access.

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