The importance of healthy hearts

In continuation of our focus on February as National Heart Health Month, consider these three facts regarding heart disease: Every 25 seconds an American will have a coronary event; every 33 seconds a person in the U.S. dies from heart disease and every 34 seconds someone has a heart attack (AHA, ASA and CDC).

Startling statistics! Therefore, please check out last week’s column for the AHA/ASA’s physical activity recommendations and heart disease prevention strategies and combine this information with the heart disease nutritional prevention strategies featured this week. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

Prevention Tip 1: Consume a variety of nutrient dense foods from all food groups: Fruits/vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and nuts and limit red meat and foods/ beverages high in simple sugar content.

Prevention Tip 2: Limit foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, simple sugar and sodium. Does this mean that you should never enjoy these foods? Not necessarily, but the rule of thumb is to concentrate on inputting foods that are chock full of nutrients as your diet foundation and enjoy occasional, limited amounts of the above-mentioned foods.

Prevention Tip 3: When choosing red meat and poultry, chose lean cuts and when possible, prepare without the skin and avoid adding fat to the preparation phase. Marinating the meat and poultry will tenderize and add flavor and there are many marinades that do not have added fat, sugar and salt.

Prevention Tip 4: Try to eat fish twice a week and choose oily-fish which contains omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and trout.

Prevention Tip 5: Reducing saturated fat to no more than 5-6 percent of total calories — for example, if you are eating approximately 2000kcal/day, you would limit your saturated fat intake to 13 grams. * Saturated fat is solid at room temperature.

Prevention Tip 6: Watch your portion sizes. Here are a few good comparisons to help you particularly when eating out: a) three ounces of lean meat is about the size of the palm of your hand or a computer mouse; b) a small baked potato is about the size of a baseball; c) a quarter cup of nuts is about the size of a golf ball; d) one cup of vegetables (cooked or raw) is about the size of a smart phone; and, e) a medium banana is about the length of a pencil.

Prevention Tip 7: If you are hypertensive or have a genetic pre-disposition toward hypertension, you may want to choose foods that are lower in sodium. Not all those with hypertension are salt-sensitive; however, keeping sodium intake to 2,400 milligrams or less per day may help reduce blood pressure.

Prevention Tip 8: If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation. The recommended maximum is one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

Prevention Tip 9: Keep a food diary and log the number of calories that you input per day in order to maintain your weight.

Prevention Tip 10: Smoking, high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol are the primary risk factors for heart disease. Consequently, being aware of these risk factors when addressing your dietary plan may improve the quality and quantity of your life.

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