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Amid Conflicting Studies, What Should A Heart-Healthy Diet Look Like?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - It has gotten pretty confusing: Should you put down the bacon or have another hot dog?

When it comes to what you should and shouldn't eat to keep your heart healthy, the studies have been conflicting.

A recent analysis of diet studies claimed that there's no need to reduce your red and processed meat intake for good health. Well, pretty much every cardiologist from the American Heart Association, where CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez used to serve on their national board, disagreed.

RELATED: More Heart Health Coverage

Here's what yet another study concluded.

"I was getting short of breath... I put on some weight," said heart patient Holly Weiss.

There were warning signs that Weiss, who is 50ish, wrote off to middle age: Not enough exercise, too much stress and a not-so-great diet.

One day, things changed.

"I looked at my Apple Watch and my heart rate was 140," Holly said. The reading was made while she was sleeping.

She walked herself into the ER at Mount Sinai Hospital where, after a series of tests, found that she was in congestive heart failure. Her heart was pumping less than half the normal amount of blood with each beat. Her cardiologist, Dr. Anu Lala, had to educate her on the most important ways to get healthy.

"One of the central elements of taking care of someone with heart failure is allowing them or educating them on how to control their diet. And one of the key things that we advise our patients to do is to limit the amount of sodium they take on a daily basis," Dr. Lala said.

For heart failure patients like Holly, that means less than 2000 milligrams of salt a day, which is not all that much.

Limiting the amount of salt in our diet is actually important for everyone's heart health. But there's more: A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine found some other key dietary recommendations, including:

  • More than two servings of processed meat or unprocessed red meat each week increased the risk of premature death.
  • A serving of processed meat equals two slices of bacon, two small sausages, or one hot dog.
  • One serving of unprocessed red meat was equivalent to four ounces of red meat.

The researchers also stressed that all fried foods should be avoided because deep fat frying can generate trans-fatty acids.

Holly's changed many of the things in her life in addition to improving her diet. So how's she feeling?

"Better. Better than I have in a long time," she said.

The reduction in premature death from eating less processed and red meats was small, but when you apply that to an entire population where heart diseases is the number one killer, it makes for a huge difference.

Dr. Lala says to read labels, look for sodium, calorie and fat content in everything, make small changes every day, and soon you'll be improving your diet a lot.

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