By Stephanie Vella, registered dietitian
Sola Life & Fitness is a division of Beaumont Health System
Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching; it’s a time to show friends and family how special they are. But what about giving your own heart some love and attention? Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. One in three deaths—about 2,200 deaths per day—is due to heart disease or stroke. The encouraging news? Only a few risk factors, such as age, gender and family history, cannot be controlled; you can control many other risk factors of heart disease, including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and excess weight and obesity.
February is American Heart Month: the perfect time to start showing your heart some love.
Just about all of us have been affected by cardiovascular disease in one way or another. Maybe you or one of your friends has lost a loved one, or know someone with a disability related to cardiovascular disease. Now is the time to make some modifications to help prevent heart disease from affecting your life and the lives of your family. A healthy diet and other lifestyle changes, such as getting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking and managing stress, are the best weapons in the fight against heart disease.
Three things that we eat have a major impact on cardiovascular health: sugar, fat and sodium.
- Excess sugar consumption contributes to excess calorie intake and therefore weight gain. Avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages can go a long way in cutting sugar from your diet.
- Saturated fat from animal sources and trans fats (partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated fats) increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol and should be limited. Heart-healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, should be consumed instead. Remember, eating too much of any kind of fat can lead to excess weight gain, so the key is to replace, not add. Look for heart-healthy fats in nuts, seeds, fish, avocados and oils, such as olive, safflower and canola.
- Sodium increases your blood pressure, putting you at increased risk for heart failure, stroke and even dementia.
As part of a healthy diet, an adult consuming 2,000 calories daily should aim for: 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables (preferably fresh or frozen) daily; two 3.5-ounce servings of fish (wild caught, and not fried) per week; three 1-ounce-equivalent servings a day of fiber-rich whole grains; and less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Including at least four servings of unsalted raw or dry-roasted nuts and seeds and legumes per week will also provide heart-healthy fats and fiber. Fiber binds to cholesterol and removes it from the body, therefore helping to reduce your cholesterol levels. Processed meats, such as bacon, sausages and lunch meats, should be limited to no more than two servings a week, as these are generally high in sodium. Saturated fat should be limited to less than seven percent of total calorie intake, and trans fats should be virtually zero percent of your calorie intake.
Remember, the smallest step can make a big difference toward living a life free from cardiovascular disease. Something as simple as switching from two percent milk to skim milk, consuming a fiber-rich whole grain breakfast cereal or including an extra serving of vegetables at dinner can be the first step toward a healthier life. This Valentine’s Day, make a commitment to your own heart, and start showing it some love.
Want to start eating healthier, but not sure where to start? Sola Life & Fitness’s registered dietitians are nutrition experts who are here to help! Visit our SolaFitness.com or call 248-267-5600 for more information.