Sophia Kamveris, MS, RDN
February is Heart Month
February is Heart Month so it’s the perfect time to talk about cardiovascular disease. While the name is not as daunting as supercalifragilistic, it’s still a scary sounding word. In lay terms, it’s known as heart disease and it includes a myriad of conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and high blood pressure. Over half of American adults have some form of heart disease. That’s over 100 million people!
But did you know that heart disease can be prevented? The 2019 American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease reports that it can be prevented, and their number one way to get started is by improving ones diet and lifestyle.
There’s so much out “there” already so I decided to keep this blog simple and am listing the Top 10 ways to help beat (pun intended) heart disease:
1. The AHA recommends 150 minutes a week or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (or an equal combination of both) each week. And don’t forget the importance of strength training for bone health!
2. Fiber helps to keep both your gut and heart in good shape. The recommended daily goal for adults is 38 grams per day for men under age 50, and 25 grams per day for women under age 50. For adults over the age of 50 years, it’s 30 grams of dietary fiber per day for men and 21 grams of dietary fiber per day for women.
3. Avoid saturated fats. These are typically found in animal products like beef, dairy, and cheese but plant-based oils like palm, palm kernel, and coconut oil, and cocoa butter also contain saturated fat . Read the labels for these ingredients.
4. Use more monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) in cooking. MUFA include olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, nuts, and avocados. PUFA include soybean, corn, and sunflower oil. While these are the healthier oils, they still contribute calories so be careful with their amounts if you are managing your weight, as well.
5. Avoid partially hydrogenated fats and trans fatty acids (TFA). As a science primer, when hydrogen bonds are added to a liquid oil, it is turned into a solid fat when at room temperature. This process is called hydrogenation and it's bad for our hearts. Trans fatty acids were born in the 80’s. Unfortunately, 40 years later we see the damage of TFA’s as they raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.
6. Manage stress. There’s no doubt that we’ve all been under a great deal of it this past year. Here’s a good link from the AHA with their list of recommendations: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/3-tips-to-manage-stress.
7. Eat plant-based foods more often. Legumes (pinto, black, lentils, etc) are high in soluble fiber, the kind of fiber that helps to lower your bad cholesterol. Shoot for one to two plant-based meals a week to start. Forks Over Knives (www.forksoverknives.com) is a popular website to check out new recipes.
8. Look at the ingredients in a food label and not just the Nutrition Facts label. Manufacturers are good at adding a lot of unhealthy items in there but the panel can still look okay. If the list looks like a chemistry experiment recipe, put the item back on the shelf and walk away!
9. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. That’s where the perishable foods are and have less ingredients added into them to keep them shelf stable.
10. Slow and steady wins the race! Small changes add up and last longer.
Here’s a link to The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations for more ideas: