Taking care of your heart starts with your diet and making healthy changes. Cutting down on sugar, which experts say most Americans consume far too much of on a daily basis, is the perfect place to start. Processed sugars add empty calories to your diet and can disrupt your metabolism, making weight loss or maintenance difficult and posing serious health risks.

Americans on average get about 16 percent of their daily calories from added sugars, according to an Food and Drug Administration report, but the USDA’s dietary guidelines recommend less than one-third of that amount. And it’s not just the usual suspects like candy, cookies and cake that can cause the sugar surplus.

“Foods like white bread and bagels break down the same as added sugar, so, it’s about the types of carbs you’re eating, too. In fact, I would say fats aren’t making us fat, sugar is.” says Dr. Arthur Agatston, founder of the South Beach Diet.

To avoid extra sugar in your diet and get on a path to greater health, consider these simple strategies:

• Shop the Perimeter;

• Read Food Labels;

• Learn Sugar’s Other Names;

• Buy Unsweetened Foods;

• Make Sugar Swaps;

A healthy diet and lifestyle are among your best defenses to help fight cardiovascular disease. You can help improve your heart health and overall health by reducing sugar in your diet.

Source: Statepoint