Make this New Year’s resolution to change your heart health! Heart health means taking an active role in your lifestyle and diet on a daily basis, which means you are not only contributing to your heart health, but your overall health. Heart Disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S.
Changing your diet is a huge step towards a heart healthy lifestyle. We don’t mean go on a fad diet or stock up on Lean Cuisine meals. Change the way you think about food. Instead of thinking diet food, think nutritional food. Go for lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fiber, beans and lean meats. Focus on eating real food–not the processed, pre-packaged foods they try to sell you as “diet food”. Also, read nutrition labels and ask to see the nutrition facts in the places where you dine out.
The Five Pillars of a Heart Healthy diet are:
- Potassium and magnesium
- B vitamins
- Fruits and vegetables
Here are some other tips to follow:
- Eat dark colored vegetables like spinach, blackberries or pumpkin.
- Limit fat and sodium intake.
- Go for whole grain options.
- Increase the fiber in your diet by eating a high-fiber cereal for breakfast or snacking on raisins, berries and bananas.
- Choose red wine over white, but remember not to overdo it! The doctors say two glasses a day, not a bottle!
- Go for dark chocolate over milk chocolate.
- Choose low-fat dairy products.
- Add legumes like lentils or beans to your meals.
Know your fats! Saturated, polyunsaturated, mono-unsaturated.trans… it’s difficult to keep it all in check. Just know to avoid saturated and trans fat. Those two can increase your risk of coronary artery disease by raising your blood cholesterol levels. Major sources of saturated fat include beef, butter, cheese, milk, and coconut and palm oils.
Diet and exercise go hand in hand, and diet is the key to keeping your weight at a manageable level. Doctors prescribe at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. Hey, if you can’t do it every day make it your goal to get out there 3-5 days a week. The point is that you get out there and stay active. Obesity and overweight are serious risk factors for heart disease, so getting down to a healthy weight is a must. Whether it’s a fitness class, mall walking or riding your bike around the neighborhood, make a plan and stick to it.
When you smoke, the tar and nicotine that enter your system make your heart work harder by narrowing your blood vessels and increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Concurrently, the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen in your blood, which further increases your blood pressure by forcing your heart to work harder to supply enough oxygen. This can ultimately lead to a heart attack or stroke. Quitting smoking is serious lifestyle change that will produce immediate health results, so don’t push it off. Talk to your doctor, get help from your family and friends or join a support group – whatever you have to do to kick the habit!
Just by making these three lifestyle changes will impact your life and your health in large proportions! You’ll look better, feel better, and–if you were a smoker–smell better! If you have health questions, try out our Consult-A-Nurse® hot line by calling 1-800-449-8642 or peruse our health blog by clicking here!