Food costs and access may be big obstacles to heart health

Heart disease is the number one killer for men and women. February is American Heart Month, and The Cleveland Clinic has released its annual heart survey. It shows food costs and access to healthy foods are some of the biggest obstacles to heart health.

Cleveland Clinic polled a thousand adults from across the country and found nearly half of Americans surveyed are having trouble with the surging grocery costs; 46 percent believe healthy food being more expensive is the biggest barrier to eating healthy.

“We all see it really now, with the prices being hiked at our grocery stores for things like apples and oranges. Foods that we really never thought were so expensive,” Dr. Tamanna Singh, the Co-Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Sports Cardiology Center, said.

To stretch your dollar, she recommends shopping around for discounts, and to think outside of the pricier produce aisle.

“Maybe utilize things like frozen foods or canned foods that are unsalted, things that perhaps are more shelf friendly, we can still try to create healthy meals,” Dr. Singh said.

The survey also found roughly 20 percent of Black Americans say it’s hard for them to access stores that sell healthy food, compared to 15 percent of White Americans. Food deserts continue to be a big issue in underserved communities.

“I think we actually have to be more intentional about putting those areas, providing that access in those neighborhoods,” Dr. Singh said.

Fast food and meals on the go were also a huge talking point. Surprisingly, 10 percent of Americans chose a fast-food diet as the most heart healthy diet. And 71 percent of people polled believed moderate exercise had a greater impact on losing weight than diet.

Dr. Singh said the key to wellness involved a variety, and said not to overcomplicate the process.

“Just be intentional and focus on quality of nutrition and quality of exercise. And if you start to be consistent about what you’re putting into your body, shopping the periphery of the grocery store, looking for those whole foods and unprocessed foods, that actually gives you a lot of energy to then put into exercise,” she said.

The survey also found not having enough time to prepare meals or not knowing how to cook were also contributing factors.