In honor of American Heart Month, we’re talking heart health. Many of you may be affected by heart disease or know someone who has. This month, we wanted to give you information that could help you and your loved ones adopt healthy choices in the hopes of preventing this life-threatening disease.
Did you know that about 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year, which is about 1 in every 4 deaths. Smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, and being physically inactive all put you at a higher risk of developing heart disease. But there are some simple changes to your diet and lifestyle to help reduce your risk of heart disease!
For starters, eating a healthy and balanced diet can begin to reduce your risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease. We like to focus on the MyPlate method to ensure you’re eating balanced meals.
Eat Balanced Meals
The MyPlate method focuses on ½ of your plate fruits and non starchy vegetables, ¼ of your plate whole grains or starches, and ¼ of your plate lean proteins and nonfat or low-fat dairy. Whole grains can be found in whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta, oatmeal, quinoa, farro, and many other grains. Starchy vegetables like corn, peas, and potatoes also fall into this section of the plate. When choosing lean proteins, look for foods like chicken, fish, beans, nut butters, eggs, lean ground meat, or loin or round cuts of meat. Aim to make your plate look like MyPlate for most of your meals in the day.
Eat the Right Fats
Fat is a macronutrient needed by the body. Fat provides structure to cells and cushions membranes to prevent damage. Oils and fats are also needed to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, a micronutrient important for healthy eyes and lungs. But too much unhealthy fat can contribute to your risk of heart disease.
There are four major types of fat:
Saturated & Trans Fats
Both increase LDL (or “bad” cholesterol) and are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Trans fats also lower HDL (or the “good” cholesterol). Aim to limit saturated fats by replacing them with healthier sources of fat like mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Avoid trans fats whenever possible.
Saturated fats are often found in:
Trans fats are often found in:
Monounsaturated & Polyunsaturated Fats
Unsaturated fats like monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats have been shown to improve brain function, lower cholesterol levels, and decrease risk of heart disease. These are the healthy fats that we want to include into our diet regularly.
Monounsaturated fats are often found in:
Polyunsaturated fats are often found in:
Including a range of healthy fats in your diet can have health protective benefits. Try cooking with olive oil, having a handful of nuts as a snack, or incorporating seafood during the week.
High blood pressure can also contribute to higher risk of heart disease because it increases pressure and stress on your heart. To decrease your blood pressure, be sure to limit your sodium or salt intake to 2300 mg per day. Aim to base the majority of your meals around foods naturally low in sodium like fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables and unseasoned whole grains.For more information on sodium, take a look here.
High Sodium Foods Include:
To limit some of your salt consumption, opt for low sodium or no salt added versions of foods. For canned beans or vegetables, drain and rinse two times to remove some of that salt.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Practicing an overall healthy lifestyle reduces your risk even further. Make sure to exercise, get enough sleep, drink enough H2O, and live a smoke-free life. Find movement you enjoy such as walking, dancing, yoga, cycling, weight lifting, you name it!
This month, choose one of these tips to focus on. Create a SMART goal and take it as a challenge to reduce your risk and protect that loving heart. Work on filling out this handout here to determine a SMART goal for you! What goals are you going to work on this month? Leave a comment and let us know!
Hands up if you make a New Year’s resolution each year? This time of year is filled with cleanses, detoxes, and fad diets that are typically expensive, not evidence based, and unsustainable. How many of you have tried one of these fads once the New Year rolled in? How many of you kept that habit throughout the whole year?
Often, New Year’s resolutions are created with great intentions, but fall flat by the end of January. Have you taken time to reflect on why those goals don’t last? Have you ever wondered why this is? It could be that you took on too much too soon or worked hard toward goals that weren't really designed with your health and well-being in mind.
This year, we want to challenge you to build healthy lifestyle habits that are sustainable and realistic for your life and your body.
And we’ve got just the program for you!
Small Changes for Health is a program crafted by registered dietitians that covers a range of topics to help you achieve the healthiest life based on your individual needs! We’ll start the program by teaching you how to make SMART goals that will last for years to come.
So, what is Small Changes for Health?
A FREE, 10-week program designed to help you build healthy habits one week at a time. The program focuses on physical activity, healthy eating, sleep, and other self-care strategies designed to improve well-being.
The theme for 2019 is “An Ounce of Prevention”. Whether you’d like to do what you can to minimize your risk for chronic disease, or prevent the progression of an existing disease, the habits you build will support either goal.
How does it work?
Each week you receive an email with a small change in physical activity and a healthy habit challenge for you to complete We will also share tips and resources to help you meet the goals.
What are the changes?
For the physical activity change, you may be asked to do an activity for a specified length of time and number of days during the week. The goal is to move more often so you feel your best!
What are the challenges?
The healthy habit challenge encourages you to do a healthy activity like eating balanced meals, sleeping more, and adding to your support network. With practice, the activities become healthy habits designed to improve mental and physical well-being.
What are the prizes?
Small Changes for Health is offering up prizes and grand prizes that you could win by participating:
What will I need to participate?
Access to a computer, tablet or smartphone to access the information and tips and good walking/running shoes are the basics.
When does it begin?
The program starts the week of January 14th, 2019 and runs through the end of March.
Sign up today! https://www.smallchangesforhealth.com/
Follow Let’s Move! STL on Twitter and Facebook for the latest info and be sure to register for more information on www.letsmovestlouis.com!
Let's Move! STL Dietitians