February is heart health awareness month and our dietitians have compiled information to help you learn about heart disease and steps you can take to help prevent heart disease and live a healthier life.
Heart disease is referred to as the silent killer, because it is the number one cause of death in the world and can often strike with little or no symptoms. Heart disease is the leading cause of death, killing 3 in every 10 people in the world. The good news is that approximately 80% or more of all heart disease is preventable!
Heart disease has many different risk factors, some which you can control and some of which you cannot. The risk factors you cannot control include your age (men 45 or older and women 55 or older), gender, race, and family history. Risk factors that you can control include weight, diet, physical activity, monitoring cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, blood sugar, smoking and alcohol intake.
Here are several steps to help you improve the controllable risk factors:
Limit your trans fat and saturated fat intake
Trans fat: This man-made fat helps to increase the shelf life of foods. Trans fat increases your LDL (bad) cholesterol and decreases your HDL (good) cholesterol. Trans fat (also known as partially hydrogenated oils) are listed as an ingredient on food labels. If possible, avoid all trans fats.
Saturated fat: Saturated fats occur naturally in many foods. Saturated fats can increase the level of total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood. High levels of blood cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.It is found in: fatty cuts of meat, poultry with skin, whole-milk dairy products, tropical oils, such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils, fied foods, lard and cream, many packaged snacks and sweets
To decrease saturated fat in your diet: Choose lean cuts of meat and remove the skin when choosing poultry. Choose fat free or low fat dairy products. Choose fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains instead of packaged foods.
Choose Healthy Fats
By replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fat you can lower your LDL cholesterol and increase your HDL cholesterol. Olive oil and canola oil have a high percentage of monounsaturated fat. Remember that just 1 tablespoon of oil contains approximately 14 grams (g) of fat and 120 calories; so, although it is the healthier fat, you still need to use it in small amounts. Other foods rich in monounsaturated fats are: olives, avocados, peanut butter, many nuts and seeds.
Omega-3 fatty acids are another type of healthy fat (polyunsaturated). Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, those at high risk, and those who have heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating a variety of fish (preferably fatty fish like mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon) at least twice a week. Other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include: Flaxseed, canola, and soybean oils, flaxseed, walnuts.
Increase your fiber
The average American adult consumes 10 g of dietary fiber/day. However, it is recommended that adults consume 25-35 g of fiber/day for optimal health! Recommendations for children older than 3 years of age is to consume their "age plus 5 g" of dietary fiber/day. Eat beans, whole-grain cereals, and oatmeal, and aim for five servings of fruits and vegetables/day. Anything with 5 grams of fiber or more is a high source of fiber.
Heart Healthy Eating Chart
30% or less of total calories
Less than 10% of total calories
2 g or less
Up to 15% of total calories
Less than 300 mg/day
2400 mg or less/day
Practice weight management
Control the calories you consume to take action in managing your weight. It takes 3500 calories to equal 1 pound (lb) of body fat. Cutting back just 500 calories/day can promote a 1 lb weight loss/week. What does 500 calories look like? A 20-fluid-ounce (fl oz) bottle of regular cola plus one regular-sized candy bar equals approximately 500 calories. If you are overweight, just losing 5%-10% of your weight can significantly reduce your blood cholesterol!
Regular exercise can help raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Aim for 30 minutes of activity or more on most days of the week. Three 10-minute bouts of exercise are just as effective as one 30-minute session. Walking, shoveling snow, riding a bike, playing in the yard with children any and all of these count!
Live a healthy lifestyle
Managing your stress, not smoking and not consuming alcohol in excess are also crutial steps in preventing heart disease.
For more heart healthy information check out the American Heart Association available at: http://www.americanheart.org.