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Eating for a Healthy Heart
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. The good news is that many of these deaths and risk factors for heart disease are preventable. Most of the risk factors can be controlled with lifestyle changes, including healthy food choices. This can have a big impact on your heart’s health.
Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Risk factors contribute to the chance of developing or worsening heart disease. Some risk factors, such as age and family history of early heart disease cannot be changed. However, other risk factors that you can do something about are:
high blood cholesterol and blood pressure • diabetes and pre-diabetes• smoking • being overweight • lack of physical activity • an unhealthy diet
The goals for heart health are to maintain a healthy weight, include regular physical activity, do not smoke, manage stress and follow a healthy eating plan. Changes can be made gradually, however, these need to be long term to lower your risk for heart disease and to possibly prevent current heart disease from getting worse.
Heart Healthy Eating Plan
- Be Mindful of Portions – keep calories in balance to maintain a healthy weight.
- Include a Variety of Fresh Whole Foods - minimize sugar, salt and unhealthy fats. Include fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein (especially fish) and reduced fat dairy.
- Limit Unhealthy Fats – saturated and trans fats increase LDL cholesterol. Saturated fats are found mainly in meat, poultry and dairy products. Palm and coconut oils are also saturated fats. Baked goods, fried, processed and fast foods can be high in these fats. Trans fats occur in small amounts naturally, although most are manufactured and added. These pose the greatest risk for heart disease. Even though they are banned in several states, they may still be found in small amounts. Processed foods and coffee creamers often contain these fats.
- Replace Saturated Fat with Healthier Fats – mono and polyunsaturated fats can lower LDL cholesterol and are found in nuts, seeds, avocados, fish, olive and canola oil. Be mindful of portions if you need to lose weight. Even healthy fats are packed with calories. Omega - 3 fats are in this group, with fish being an excellent source. Include fish at least twice a week.
- Limit Calories from Added Sugar – too much sugar may cause a fatty liver. This can lead to high triglycerides, cholesterol, inflammation and possibly high blood pressure. Most of the sugar in our diet comes from baked goods, sweet drinks, candy and ice cream.
- Reduce Sodium – to help maintain blood pressure. The goal is no more than 1500 mg. daily.
Nutrition Facts Label
Use the nutrition facts label to track fat and added sugar. For a healthier heart limit:
Saturated fats to no more than 11-13 gms daily. Avoid trans fats completely. The ingredients should not contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat.
Sugar/Added Sugar Daily - Women limit to 6 tsp or 25 gms; Men 9 tsp or 38 gms.
(NOTE: This is based on 2000 calories a day.)
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