You’ll Love These Heart Health Tips
February is the month dedicated to all things of the heart! The month is also nationally recognized as American Heart Month, a perfect time to take charge of your heart health by making healthy choices and improving your diet; Start with the following tips to reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Avoid the annual weight creep. Adults in the U.S. gain an average of one to two pounds per year as they age. According to a large study, much of that weight gain is caused by changes in diet such as eating extra servings of potato chips, French fries, sugar-sweetened drinks and meat. Instead of always being “on a diet,” focus your attention on smart food choices and smaller portions that will allow you to maintain your weight. In addition, 30 minutes of moderate exercise (e.g., brisk walking) nearly every day will help control your weight. If you can’t devote 30 minutes all at once, break it up into 10-minute intervals.
- Eat your vegetables and fruits. Research links diets rich in fruits and vegetables with a lower risk for heart disease. Eat a variety, focusing on deeply-colored vegetables and fruits such as spinach, carrots and berries – they tend to contain more nutrients than paler picks (e.g., potatoes and corn).
- Fill up on fiber. Eat 25 to 30 grams of total fiber daily. There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Research shows that soluble fiber – found in foods including oats, beans, barley and citrus – helps reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber – found in whole-grain breads and cereals and vegetables – also helps protects your heart. Fiber extends the time food stays in your stomach, so you feel full longer on fewer calories.
- Be choosy about food fats. Keeping a cap on saturated fats, trans fats and dietary cholesterol helps reduce risk of heart disease primarily by lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol. Limit intake of saturated fats (in full-fat dairy products and fatty meats) to less than 10 percent of daily calories. It’s best to read labels, especially on snack foods like crackers and cookies. The fat to avoid is “partially hydrogenated oil.” Try to consume no more than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol daily. If you don’t want to crunch numbers, a general plan is to replace whole-fat dairy with skim or 1% dairy products, and to replace fatty meats with lean meats, fish and plant-based proteins, such as beans.
- Consume omega-3 fatty acids every day. There are three types of omega 3s and all appear to be beneficial in protecting against heart disease and possible stroke. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)is found in soybean and canola oil, flaxseed and walnuts. In addition, ALA is also found in some green vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach and salad greens. New studies suggest all omega 3 fatty acids offer a potential benefit for a wide range of other conditions including cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and other autoimmune diseases. For good health, aim for at least one rich source of omega 3 fatty acids every day. This could be through a 4-ounce serving of fatty fish (such as salmon), a tablespoon of canola or soybean oil in salad dressing or in cooking, or a small handful of walnuts or ground flaxseed mixed into your morning cereal.
- Sprinkle lightly with salt and keep an eye on the food label. Limit daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams. Unfortunately, most packaged, canned or boxed foods have salt added as a preservative or a flavoring agent. As salt intake increases, so may blood pressure. Your heart has to work harder to pump the added fluid your body retains from sodium. Reducing sodium intake can prevent hypertension and help reduce blood pressure if you’re taking medication.
- If you drink alcohol, do it in moderation. If you consume alcohol, do so moderately – that’s two drinks per day for men and one drink for women. And while studies link moderate alcohol intake, especially red wine, with reduced risk of heart disease, it doesn’t mean that teetotalers should take up drinking. Alcohol can be addictive and high intakes can contribute to hypertension.
RediClinic Loves Your Heart
If you have a personal or family history of heart concerns, talk to a board-certified clinician at RediClinic about your heart health. We offer comprehensive heart health screenings to evaluate your health numbers and make a plan to maintain the health of your heart. If you’re wondering where to get a diabetes test, RediClinic can help with that too! A visit to RediClinic is one of the first steps you can take to reduce your risk of heart disease and live a longer, healthier life.