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!
Let's Move! STL Dietitians