As you may know, February is American Heart Month, a month dedicated to the awareness and prevention of heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both U.S. men and women, and a study from the American Heart Association shows that one in four deaths is caused by heart disease; however, it is mostly preventable and controllable. As a Registered Dietitian here at Frito-Lay, I would like to provide you with some tips to keep your heart healthy, and reduce your risk of getting heart disease:
- Get Moving! Regular exercise keeps your heart in shape and reduces your risk of developing heart disease. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend we exercise at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week. But if you don’t exercise now, start slowly -- even five to 10 minutes a day can make a difference. You might be asking yourself what the best type of exercise might be? My advice is find one you enjoy! If the exercise is fun for you, you are more likely to do it again.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight! Keeping your weight at a healthy level is not just about outward appearances, as it is also beneficial for your health. People who maintain a healthy weight have a reduced risk of developing heart disease as well as other chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and even certain forms of cancer. Losing just five pounds can have a positive impact. Balancing the calories you take in from food and beverages (calories in) with the calories your body burns through physical activity (calories out) is the key to keeping your weight in check and preventing weight gain. To start, find out how many calories you should consume in a day by visiting www.mypyramidtracker.gov.
- Eat for a Healthy Heart! Diet is very a very important part of both preventing and treating heart disease. When choosing foods that fit into a heart-healthy lifestyle, there are a few key points to remember:
- Limit saturated and trans fats. These have been shown to increase LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and increase the risk for heart disease.
- Eat a moderate amount of mono- and polyunsaturated fats. These healthier fats have been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease by helping to lower your cholesterol.
- Make whole grains three of your six daily recommended grain servings. Whole grains have been shown to lower the risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke, and are found in foods such as whole grain bread and whole grain cereals.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. They are low in calories and full of vitamins and minerals that will help you to maintain a healthy weight and decrease your risk for heart disease. It is recommended to eat at least 4 ½ servings/day.
- Keep portion sizes in check. Eating proper portion sizes helps you to maintain a healthy weight, which will put you at lower risk for developing heart disease. Visit this link for more information on controlling portion sizes.
- Be mindful of sodium intake. Evidence suggests that excessive sodium intake in some individuals may lead to an increased risk of heart disease. If you currently have heart disease or are at high risk for developing heart disease, decreasing your sodium intake could be beneficial.
- Know Your Numbers! Science has shown that there are certain clinical criteria linked to an increased or decreased risk of heart disease -- knowing the recommended goals for cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, BMI and waist circumference to take control of your health and prevent or delay the onset of heart disease.
Try to make just a couple of these changes for heart health at a time. Once you are able to fully incorporate them into your lifestyle, add on a couple more! Remember, heart disease is not always evident on the outside -- sometimes people who “look healthy” can have heart disease as well. For this reason, it is very important to schedule yearly physical exams with your doctor. Get to know what your cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels are, and be aware of any changes. To you and your healthy heart!