February is American Heart Month, which means more attention will be on heart disease awareness and prevention than usual. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States, affecting one in four Americans.
Heart disease occurs when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries, which creates blood clots and makes it more difficult for blood to flow through. While the condition is serious, it’s also very preventable! In fact, one of the biggest factors in heart disease prevention is diet - a lifestyle choice that we have lots of control over. With that in mind, we recommend the following helpful tips for eating the right foods that will aid in keeping your heart and body healthy:
- Read Calorie Information: Regulating caloric intake is one of the major ways to keep up with a balanced diet. Many factors go into calculating your daily caloric intake, but some include age, gender, weight, level of physical activity, and more. Using tools to consider these important factors will help you figure out how many calories you should be eating and drinking each day to be your healthiest. Calorie information on food labels is typically based on a 2,000 calories per day diet, but you can consult your doctor for more information on your suggested intake.
- Choose Healthy Options from All Food Groups: A healthy diet doesn’t just equal a healthy caloric intake. Balancing out your diet with nutritious selections from each food group is essential in keeping your heart healthy. Foods that are full of nutrients tend to have fewer calories and contain the vitamins and minerals that the body needs to thrive. The American Heart Association recommends emphasizing various fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, and any non-tropical oils.
- Note Which Foods to Avoid: Adding more healthy options to one’s diet also means taking some food away to reduce your risk of poor heart health. High-calorie options and foods low in nutrients are the biggest foods to avoid when keeping heart health in mind. Decreasing your intake of sodium-rich foods is also a great way to prevent and reduce high blood pressure, as a high-salt diet can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and other deadly heart conditions. Sugary foods and drinks such as soda should also be avoided, as soft drinks contain high amounts of sugar and increase your risk of developing heart disease.
- Exercise, Exercise, Exercise: Sticking with a healthy diet will make a difference, but diet and exercise go hand in hand. Reducing calories in and increasing calories out is the best way to keep your heart in check. The American Heart Association suggests that adults between 18 and 64 years old should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. Moderate aerobic activity includes walking and vigorous can be running or jogging.
These healthy lifestyle tips will go a long way in helping you feel your best and in keeping your heart healthy. While these steps are a great starting point for good health, it’s important to consult a doctor to learn more about heart disease prevention, especially if heart disease runs in your family. If you have concerns about heart disease, dieting, and healthy habits in general, contact a doctor at a location near you. During your appointment, we can help you get on the right track for beginning a healthier lifestyle to prevent heart disease and other conditions.