Cardiovascular (heart-related) diseases are currently one of the leading causes of death. A healthy diet and lifestyle can definitely help reduce your risk for heart disease or deter your current heart condition from worsening. Here’s an opportunity to learn a little something about the heart and how diet plays a major role for a healthy heart.
Risk factors for heart diseases
Penning down a list of recommendation or guidelines is easy. But you follow it only when you believe in it and you can believe in it only when you’re offered an explanation. Apart from a family history of heart disease, ethnicity and age, there are other cardiovascular risk factors:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Diabetes and prediabetes
- Overweight or obesity
- Sedentary lifestyle
Now, these conditions are a result of poor diet and inactivity. Therefore, there is no doubt that healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to avert or fight cardiovascular diseases.
Let’s keep the beat going
So, what are the rules of the game when it comes to keeping your heart healthy?
Food Choices and Preparation
- Use the nutrition facts label and ingredients list when choosing foods to buy – choose food items that are relatively low in sugar, sodium and fat.
- Eat fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables and fruits with a limited amount of sauces and added salt and sugars.
- Replace empty calorie foods (high in calories and lacking other nutrients) with fruits and vegetables.
- Improve your fiber intake by including pulses/legumes, whole-grain products, fruits, and vegetables in your daily menu.
- Substitute solid fats with liquid vegetable oils.
- Limit beverages and foods high in added sugars. Common forms of added sugars are sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, corn syrups, concentrated fruit juice, and honey.
- Select foods made of whole grains. Common forms of whole grains are whole wheat, oats/oatmeal, rye, barley, corn, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, triticale, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, quinoa, and sorghum.
- Cut back on pastries and bakery products like muffins and doughnuts.
- Select milk and dairy products that are either fat-free or low-fat.
- Curb your salt intake. Ideally, stick to 1 tsp (5g) of salt for the entire day. (Refer to the DASH diet to get quick and practical tips on how to reduce salt intake)
- Opt for lean cuts of meat and remove the skin from poultry before eating.
- Restrict processed meats that are high in saturated fat and sodium.
- Choose smart methods of cooking – rather than deep frying. You can grill, bake, or broil fish, meat, and poultry.
- Whenever possible, reach out for whole vegetables and fruits in place of juices. This ensures good fiber intake and you also avoid consumption of added sugar.
- Get in touch with a nutritionist to know your daily calorie requirement to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Identify the calorie content of the foods and beverages you consume.
- Monitor your weight, physical activity and calorie intake.
- Ensure you prepare and consume smaller portions of dishes.
- Track your screen time (e.g., watching television, surfing the internet, playing games) and reduce whenever possible.
- Start integrating physical movement into habitual activities.
- Put aside cigarette and tobacco products.
- If and when you consume alcohol, do so in moderation. That means no more than 1 drink for women or 2 drinks for men per day.
So, go ahead and take these simple steps to stay hale and hearty!