Be Smart for Your Heart

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Since President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the first American Heart Month in 1964, the month of February has been dedicated to cardiovascular health awareness. Heart disease has been the number one killer of American men and women for many years, but you can take actions to reduce risk and improve outcome.

A healthy diet is the foundation of a healthy heart. Focus on eating a variety of nutrient dense foods from each food group. This will bring you one step closer to controlling your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Eat a variety of fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables. For canned and frozen produce, look for items with low sodium or no salt or sugar added. Look for fruits canned in 100% juice.

Choose fiber rich whole grains for the majority of your grain servings. Finding whole grain options in the store simply comes down to reading the ingredients list. The ingredient list can be found just below the Nutrition Facts label, usually located on the back or side of a product package. The first ingredient in the list must be a whole grain. Just some examples of whole grain ingredients are whole wheat flour, whole rye flour, brown rice, oats, and wheatberries. Do not be fooled by front-of-package labels like multigrain, wheat, stoneground, or organic. The only way to be sure is to read the ingredient list! Products made with enriched flours are not whole grains.

Controlling fat intake is another very important part of keeping your heart healthy. It is important to limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats, and replace them with healthier unsaturated fats. Choose lean, skinless meats, like chicken and fish as healthy protein choices. Cook them in healthy ways, like grilling or roasting, without added saturated or trans fats. For heart healthy omega-3 fats, incorporate a variety of fish into your diet at least twice a week.

Cut back on those sugar sweetened beverages! With zero calories and added sugars, water is always the best choice. To make drinking water more enticing, try adding a slice of your favorite citrus to a glass of water or choose seltzer as an alternate, bubbly zero calorie option!

Finally, choose foods with less sodium and look for ways to prepare food without adding salt. When cooking, try adding cayenne, paprika, garlic, or pepper for flavor without the sodium! Shoot to consume no more than 2,400 mg of sodium to lower or maintain blood pressure.

With these diet tips, regular physical activity, moderating alcohol consumption, and saying no to smoking, you will be many steps closer to losing weight, keeping it off and helping your heart stay healthy and fit!

Written By

Photo of Emily TroutmanEmily TroutmanExtension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences (828) 764-9480 (Office) emily_troutman@ncsu.eduBurke County, North Carolina
Updated on Feb 3, 2017
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