By Vann Lovett, MPH, RD, LD
Sadly, having heart trouble is becoming the new normal for many adults.
Nearly half of all adults in the United States have some form of cardiovascular disease.1 This year, one million people will suffer a heart attack or die from coronary heart disease, according to the American Heart Association News.
But don’t lose heart! Fortunately, you can prevent cardiovascular disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Good nutrition and moderate exercise can help to prevent and treat many of the risk factors for heart disease.
In honor of American Heart Month, here are a few ideas to help you improve your diet:
Why: By eating a low-sodium diet, you can lower your blood pressure, putting less strain on your heart. Experts recommend less than 2,300mg of sodium per day, which is equal to about one teaspoon of salt.2 On average, Americans consume 3,400mg of sodium per day.
Why: Fruits and vegetables are high in potassium, which can help lower blood pressure. They also help you control your weight without feeling deprived.
Why: Saturated fat combined with dietary cholesterol is particularly bad for heart health. This deadly duo is found only in animal products.
Note: Although animal foods are the only source of dietary cholesterol and the main source of saturated fat, saturated fat is also found in palm and coconut oils. Many snack foods, commercial baked goods and other processed/convenience food products use palm or coconut oils. These foods should be eaten as occasional treats.
I’d also like to encourage you to move more. Exercise helps lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and raises HDL (good) cholesterol levels. If you’re not currently active, please talk to your doctor about beginning a new exercise regimen.
Vann Lovett is the manager of food and nutrition services, as well as diabetes education at Columbia Memorial Hospital.
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