What better time to remind people about heart health, and continue to raise awareness about American Heart Month, than the month of February!
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with coronary heart disease topping the list for the most common heart disease. Now for the good news: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your chance for developing coronary heart disease can be reduced by taking some preventive steps.
- Put a limit on unhealthy, fatty foods and those high in cholesterol. Reduce foods with trans fats and saturated fats. Unfortunately, this probably includes many of your favorite snack items (even if the box says, “reduced fat”). Food that falls in this category can contribute to high blood cholesterol levels, leading to a risk of heart attack and stroke (from a buildup of plaque in your arteries). Limit butters, shortening and fatty meats in your diet, too, and use healthy substitutions when possible (salsa to top your baked potato instead of butter; low-fat yogurts instead of sour cream; olive oil instead of butter).
- Fill up on fruits and veggies. There’s a reason your mother told you to eat your vegetables! They’re low in calories, high in fiber and may contain properties that help prevent cardiovascular disease. Along with the vitamins and minerals they include, fruits and veggies can also keep you from eating high-fat foods, like meats, cheeses and snacks
According to Cindy Moore, MS, RD, director of the nutrition therapy department at The Cleveland Clinic, “Fruit is a great food choice any time of the day. Some fruits, such as berries and grapes, will be richer sources of fiber, but most fruits will contribute vitamins A, C, a variety of minerals, they will be low in calories, filling because of their water content, and just a terrific food to snack on.”
- Add whole grains to your meals. Whole grains are a great source of fiber and also help regulate blood pressure. Try to avoid refined grain products like white flour, white bread, egg noodles, snack bars, cookies, and other high-fat snac
- Put down the saltshaker and shrink your portions. Diets high in sodium can put you at risk for high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease. Sodium is sneaky, and hides out in processed foods, fast foods and prepared meals. Portion control (including at restaurants) can help prevent overeating and help reduce your calorie intake.
Related: Are You ‘Portion-Challenged’?
- Switch to low-fat proteins. Look for the lean cuts of meat, and keep your portions limited. Try skinless chicken breasts, and adding more fish in your diet (certain fish like salmon and mackerel include omega-3 fatty acids, which can help inhibit plaque growth in your arteries; reduce the formation of blood clots; and increase your “good” cholesterol levels). Add legumes like beans, lentils and peas.
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Patricia Conte is a writer with more than 20 years of professional experience. With a passion for cooking and for food, it should come as no surprise that among the subject matter she writes about, including health and wellness, food is a regular topic. Patricia is also a food blogger. Visit her site, Grab a Plate, for recipes and food ideas.
Patricia is enthusiastic about living a healthy lifestyle, yoga and hiking, and is a life-long Cleveland Cavaliers fan.
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