Do you know how to properly fuel and protect the most vital organ in your body? The heart is the center of the cardiovascular system and needs proper care and nourishment to remain healthy. Nearly half of Americans are at risk for heart disease, a large percentage of which are due to poor diet. Luckily, making changes in one’s diet is a quick and easy way to start to protect your heart from heart attacks, strokes, and coronary artery disease by controlling your weight and keeping your cholesterol and blood pressure in check. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Avoid fats! Cut out the foods filled with trans-fats and saturated fats, as well as those high in cholesterol. There are many healthier alternatives to these problematic food items, such as Greek yogurt in place of sour cream or skim milk in place of heavy whipping cream.
- Well-rounded diet! Try to include foods from several food groups to keep meals healthy and well rounded. Make sure to include fruits and vegetables in your daily diet as they are a great source of fiber and are low in calories. Fish is an excellent addition to your diet, rich with anti-inflammatory omega-3-fatty acids that may assist in lowering the risk of heart disease.
- Count calories! Although the task seems daunting, monitoring your daily caloric intake to manage your weight can help prevent stroke, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. It’s best to talk to your healthcare provider to gain insight on calorie intake for your weight, age, gender, and level of activity.
- Watch out for salt! Take note of your sodium intake. Beware of foods that are “low calorie.” Often, low calorie means a spike in sodium levels. Aim to cap your your sodium intake at 1,500 milligrams each day.
- Snack smart! Don’t cut out snacking; just change what you snack on. Snacks keep us going throughout the day, so cutting them out won’t do you any good. Try snacking on healthy fats such as seeds and nuts, fruits or veggies. Just remember to monitor your calories!
- Aerobic exercise! Attempt to exercise for 30-60 minutes a day, especially if you are sitting in a chair for the majority of the day! Not only does aerobic exercise help keep the heart healthy, it also releases serotonin endorphins, the feel good hormone!
Because heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States, it is crucial that people start to make better lifestyle choices. Although there are many ways to combat heart disease, a healthy diet is a great first step in reducing your risks and improving your chances for a long, healthy life!