February is National Heart Health Month, making it the perfect time to highlight some foods that promote heart health, as well as list those that do more harm than good.
While heart disease can be hereditary, its prevention begins with a healthy lifestyle. For starters, this means no smoking, monitoring your blood sugar and blood pressure levels, and incorporating exercise and a healthy, well-balanced diet into your everyday routine.
Diet alone can play a huge role in heart disease prevention. In general, heart healthy foods are ones that are natural, whole foods that don’t come in a box and instead come straight from nature. Fresh fruits and vegetables are certainly a cornerstone of heart-healthy foods for their high nutrient and vitamin content and their amazing ability to cleanse free radicals from the blood stream. (more…)
Prepared by Director of Nutrition of CalorieCount.com Rachel Berman RD
While you are thinking about what to buy that special someone for Valentine’s Day this February, also consider giving yourself the gift of heart health. Whether you have dropped off on your New Year’s Resolution or just need a renewed sense of motivation, the American Heart Association’s designated Heart Health Month has come at a perfect time. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in America and by making swaps in your diet you can take steps towards prevention.
Love it: Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats found in oily fish, enriched products such as eggs, and supplements. They can reduce your risk for heart disease by lowering blood pressure, increasing ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, and reducing inflammation in your body that can damage blood vessels. A study published this month in Circulation, also found that older adults with higher levels of omega-3 in their blood were 30% less likely to suffer from an irregular heartbeat. If you aren’t a fan of fish like salmon or tuna, you can also get a dose of omega-3 in with flaxseed and walnuts.
Leave it: Saturated & trans fatty acids
Foods high in saturated fat raise blood cholesterol which can damage your arteries and lead to a heart attack or stroke. Saturated fat is found in full fat dairy, meats and even some vegetable products like coconut and palm kernel oil. Read labels to avoid products with trans fat. It is a man-made product that increases ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, and suppresses protective, ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
The updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans have finally been released and although they are a month late, and really not much different from the 2005 version, they address some vital concerns, including heart disease. The late release of the new guidelines serves as a strong foundation for this year’s American Heart Month. With an emphasis on reduced sodium intake as a key recommendation, the Dietary Guidelines acknowledge the importance of heart health among Americans.
On average, the typical American diet includes 3,800 mg of sodium a day. That’s a far jump from the recommended 2,300 mg and an even further jump from the reduced intake of 1,500 mg for “persons who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.” Although it would do good for everyone to lean towards the more modest number of 1,500 mg, it’s essential for about half of the population. There are many ways you can reduce the amount of sodium in your diet:
Many people are not aware of the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), recommended by the National Institutes of Health.
In recent DASH studies, adding fruits, vegetables and dairy products lowered blood pressure readings – even when the sodium was as high as 3000 mg per day! Every millimeter the blood pressure falls reduces the risk of heart attack and strokes for people with high blood pressure. So believe it, small changes will get you big results. Your everyday decisions matter. (more…)