Five Tips for a Healthy Heart
February is Heart Month, an important time to reflect on what you can do to keep your heart healthy. Big thank you to VNA’s Clinical Dietitian Jordan Goldsmith, MS, RD, LMNT, LD, for offering the following tips to help keep your heart healthy in February and throughout the year:
Balance your diet first. The idea of a heart healthy diet should focus first on getting a balanced diet, which consists of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and protein.
Mind your dietary fat options. Trying to choose the right types of dietary fats/oils is important to consider, and also the amounts we consume. Adding in plant-based sources of dietary fat (unsaturated fats) like olive or canola oil, nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocados, and hummus are great starters. In addition, try to choose leaner cuts of meats (chicken, turkey, fish, lean ground beef or ground turkey, tenderloin or sirloin cuts of beef and pork) and low-fat dairy products (skim or 1% milk, low-fat Greek yogurt, part-skim cheese). Look for the “loin” signifier word when choosing cuts of beef or pork- it’s a clue to you that it’s a leaner cut of meat. Try to include 1-2 servings of fish per week, as these are a great source of healthy omega-3’s needed for your brain, eyes, nervous system, and reduction of bodily inflammation. If you don’t like fish, then try walnuts or ground flaxseed (easy to add to oatmeal).
Watch your sodium intake. More than 75% of Americans sodium intake has been found to come from processed, prepackaged, and restaurant foods – not from the salt shaker! Easiest ways to cut back on sodium is to choose less processed foods and eat more fresh foods. Also be a smart shopper and look for “no salt added” or “low sodium” options on cans and other packages. Flavors can be added to your foods without adding sodium, such as lemon or lime juice, fresh or dry herbs, and vinegars. Also, be sure to read nutrition labels so you know what the serving size is versus how much you are putting on your plate, and also to compare between different products and their sodium amounts per serving. Try rinsing off your canned products with water, as it has been shown you can reduce up to 33% of the sodium that is present.
Increase your fiber intake. This can lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, help maintain regular bowel movements, regulate blood sugar levels, and provide that sense of being full for a longer period of time. Aim for 20-30 grams per day by eating more non-starchy veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, carrots, etc.), fruits, and whole grains (whole grain breads, crackers, cereals, brown rice, etc.).
Move more and sit less. The list of benefits from exercise continues to grow. It helps reduce symptoms of depression, dementia, risk of falls, diabetes, reduces blood pressure, and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, among many other benefits. Adults need at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking, cycling, dancing, or jogging. New evidence is showing a strong relationship between increased sedentary activity and increased risk of heart disease. In addition, try to aim for at least 2 days per week of muscle-strengthening activities, such as lifting weights, resistance bands, water aerobics, or doing push-ups.
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