Sugar affects the heart in several ways and can increase the risk of heart disease.  

“Sugar may cause inflammatory responses in the body and put more strain on the heart,” said Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Allyson Carroll. “Sugar intake has shown to increase LDL cholesterol (commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol”) and triglycerides when overconsumed, increasing risk of heart disease.” 

What are good sugar substitutes? 

  • Stevia is a great option for a calorie free natural sweetener. Using stevia in place of sugar can aid in preventing negative health risks associated with high sugar consumption.  
  • Local/raw honey can provide many benefits when consumed in moderation. However, honey is still considered an added sugar to your diet, so it is best to limit the amount consumed. 

What should I eat if I am craving sweets? 

  • Fruit, greek yogurt, unsweetened dried/freeze-dried fruits, and dark chocolate (70%+ cocoa) are other sweet options with lower sugar.  
  • Pairing fruit with protein or healthy fats like nuts/nut butter, lean meats, low-fat cheeses, and protein powders can also aid in slowing down digestion and preventing blood sugar spikes. 
  • Instead of buying pre-packaged baked goods, bake at home. Try using whole wheat or almond flour, stevia/sugar alcohols and avocado oil for baking to increase health benefits. 

Once you cut down sugar intake, the cravings should diminish in a few weeks.  

How much is too much? 

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming: 

  • <10% total calories per day from added sugar. 
  • General recommendations for women: <6 tsp. (24 grams) per day 
  • General recommendations for men: <9 tsp. (36 grams) per day 

To put these numbers in perspective, a standard 12 oz. can of soda has about 39 grams of added sugars – that one serving is more than the daily recommendation, without considering all the other foods you consumed that day that contain added sugars (dessert, bread, snacks, sauces and dressings, juice, etc).  


In summary, start replacing your sweet treats that are full of sugar to more nutritious sweets with natural sweeteners and you should see and feel improvement in your heart health and overall health.  

Remember to always consult your physician before making significant changes to your routine. If you need a cardiologist, our world-class doctors are ready to see you at Arkansas Heart! 

For recipes and other tips, read more of our blog here 

Eating healthy can help lower your risk of heart disease. But with so many fad diets and conflicting information, you may feel overwhelmed about where to start and how to keep a healthy lifestyle. Our experts at Arkansas Heart have nine simple tips to help you with a heart-healthy eating plan.   

“We want to help you make changes in your lifestyle that you know you can stick with for the rest of your life,” said Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Allison Bailey. “The question of “What to eat?” is far more beneficial to maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle than what not to eat.”  

For a heart-healthy lifestyle, we recommend you:  

  1. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  2. Eat more fish, seafood, chicken, or game meats when choosing animal-based sources. 
  3. Drink plenty of fluids (mainly water). Around 64 ounces is recommended.
  4. Limit caffeine intake. The recommended daily amount is less than 250 milligrams per day. 
  5. Cook with healthy oils such as olive, canola, or walnut. 
  6. Use seasonings besides salt. Our favorites are lime, lemon, vinegar, garlic, etc. 
  7. Control your portion sizes. Using a smaller plate helps. 
  8. Add more plant-based protein sources, like nut butter, nuts, beans, peas, or legumes/lentils, and fewer animal-based proteins.  
  9. Eat more egg white and fewer yolks.    

Gradually add these new lifestyle changes and set goals in your daily routine. Set small goals, even if it is just one or two. Work on these goals for two to three weeks – the average time to establish a lifestyle change. Then, pat yourself on the back and keep going! A good nutrition plan is a key to having a healthier heart and improving heart function.  

After following these heart-healthy eating tips for a few months, you should see and feel improvement in your heart health and overall health. Remember to always consult your physician before making significant changes to your routine. If you need a cardiologist, our world-class doctors are ready to see you at Arkansas Heart! 

For recipes and other tips, read more of our blog here. 

“If you understand how something works, it becomes knowledge you own,” says Lynette Flynn, clinical educator at Arkansas Heart Hospital. With years of experience running a critical care unit, revamping our educational programs as well as training some of our top leadership and physicians, it’s evident Lynette knows what she’s talking about.  

Arkansas Heart Hospital (AHH) values education and professional development as powerful tools to keep us on the forefront of ever-changing medical technologies. That’s why we put some of our most experienced and knowledgeable minds at the helm of our education programs. One being Lynnette Flynn.  

“Healthcare is very dynamic with new research, medications, equipment and discoveries being made almost daily,” Flynn said. “As care providers in a cutting-edge facility, clinicians have to stay on top of it all. Education helps accomplish that. AHH provides a clear bright light that is focused on education as a core tool to ensure the excellent patient-focused care provided in our facilities is maintained and supported.” 

Flynn, along with quality trainer Jayne Lookadoo-Harrison and clinical trainer Robin Scott, have built and managed unique educational programs that promote the AHH team as leaders in cardiac care innovation, nurture our future healthcare leaders and sustain our culture of mentorship.  

Our keystone programs include: 

Patient Care Partner Residency Program 

Helping individuals who want to begin a career in the medical field, the PCP Residency Program requires no previous educational or work experience. Over several weeks, participants receive in-depth classroom instruction, led by seasoned team members. They also obtain invaluable bedside experience in our facilities. 

Participants complete regular clinical shifts under the guidance of our hospital’s registered nurses and current patient care partners, so they are equipped to perform a variety of complex duties from day one on the job. 

New Graduate Nurse Program 

Our 14-week new grad nursing program is designed to support the newly hired graduate and assist with transitioning to a competent professional. The residency program introduces the new graduate nurse to our patient-care model and is an overlay to orientation. 

This program walks them through from new grad novice level to competent critical care clinicians and provides a firm foundation to support their continued skill development,” Flynn said.  

Certification Courses  

Clinical career development is supported by providing expert level courses and study groups to guide team members through successful attainment of national certification exams, including the CCRN, RCIS, CNOR and CHFN. These certifications are followed with a monetary reward, which is the best in our region, through the duration that team members maintain their certification. 

At the heart of our education and professional development initiatives is a simple goal, Flynn explains.  

“My goal for our education program is to be a place of inquiry — a place where everyone feels safe to ask questions and explore the answers,” she said. “It’s a program that meets the basic knowledge needs of novice learners as well as stimulates the expert learners to seek deeper understanding.”  

Further your career as a member of the Arkansas Heart Hospital family. View opportunities and benefits at: 

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