Too many people wait to begin a heart healthy diet when medical concerns arise. Heart issues can be a powerful motivator, but instead adopt a healthy lifestyle right now, and avoid the trauma and drama down the road! Diets or lifestyles that focus on healthy foods and healthy activities don’t have to be boring. You may have to learn to schedule activity, do some meal planning, and tweak the way you cook, but you won’t be sorry!
Whether you are trying to improve or reverse heart disease, making changes to the way you currently eat is a huge step in the right direction. Following a heart healthy diet can improve your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
You will also be amazed in the improvement in your digestive system, your sleep patterns, and even your energy level. Your new diet doesn’t have to be complicated or even more expensive.
Most of us know what it means to eat healthy. Think about lean proteins, low-fat or fat-free dairy, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and heart-healthy fats. Portion control is key in any healthy lifestyle. Overeating promotes bloating, lack of energy, and mental sluggishness. Educate yourself about proper portion sizes and see how much better you feel. Activity is a must on a heart healthy diet. Choose a simple exercise for weight loss and stick to it. Walking is one of the easiest and best exercises for people, especially those not used to being active.
According to the American Heart Association, there are 3 risk factors for heart disease that we cannot control:
- Being a male
- Heredity, including race
However, the excellent news is that there are 9 risk factors that we CAN control:
- Tobacco smoke
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
- Obesity and overweight
- Alcohol consumption
- Diet and nutrition
10 top tips for a heart healthy diet & lifestyle
- Reduce the amount of salt that you consume! Buy low-sodium products and rinse when possible to further reduce the salt. Learn to use spices to add additional flavor to your food. Studies show that reducing the amount of salt we eat would drastically reduce the new cases of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke!
- Limit or eliminate processed foods. Aside from their convenience, they offer little that fits into a heart healthy lifestyle. Learn to do most of your shopping in the produce section of the grocery store. Taking a little extra time and effort now will most likely give you back years down the road!
- Learn the difference between good fats and bad fats. Good fats include olive oil, canola oil, avocados, walnuts, flaxseed, and salmon. Bad fats are found in fatty cuts of meat, solids such as butter and lard, fried foods, and many processed sweets.
- Add more fiber to your diet. It’s so easy to get more fiber. Among its many virtues, fiber lowers blood cholesterol levels, allows sugar to enter the bloodstream more slowly, and helps you feel full. Consuming 22 grams or more a day of fiber appears to reduce your lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease, especially if you start the habit when young or middle-aged. Next time you go shopping, pick up some oranges, pears, apples, oatmeal, and beans!
- Know your cholesterol numbers and keep them under control. High cholesterol can be easily prevented with diet and exercise, or medication, when necessary. If someone in your family has been diagnosed with high-cholesterol, then you will be at risk. The ideal is to have very low LDL levels and high HDL levels. A glass of red wine can be good for your heart and improve your good cholesterol. Following a heart healthy diet will definitely improve your cholesterol!
- Allow occasional, controlled indulgences. Compensate with extra activity. This includes alcohol. A 2010 study showed that men who drank 5 alcoholic drinks had a greater risk of abnormal heartbeat than non-drinkers.
- Reduce stress. Take up walking, yoga, or a hobby, but get your stress under control.
- Get plenty of sleep. Sleep deprivation is responsible for many of our weight and stress issues. If your doctor recommends a daily aspirin for heart health, take it at bedtime. A new study shows that as being the optimum time.
- Exercise is one of the best ways to make your heart stronger! The health benefits of exercise are numerous and varied. Not only does it strengthen your immune system but it also strengthens your libido! It’s important to focus on cardio training and strength training. The latter not only increases stamina, but it also builds muscle masses, which we naturally lose as we age.
- If necessary, achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Yo-yo dieting is stressful on the heart so focus on healthy foods, portion control, and activity, and you will soon reach your goal. Exercise increases stamina and builds muscle mass, which are important components for lowering the risk of heart disease. You can easily burn fat walking which can help you achieve your goal in a shorter amount of time.
Best foods for a heart healthy diet:
- Ground flaxseed (in yogurt, cereal, muffins)
- Beans, especially black and kidney
- Almonds, walnuts
- Red wine
- Brown rice
- Soy milk
- Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries
- Sweet potatoes
- Bell peppers, especially red
- Acorn squash
- Dark chocolate
So, there you have it…easy steps that will help you include a heart healthy diet into your lifestyle. Remind yourself often that whatever you feel like you are sacrificing, will be returned to you in longevity! Not a bad trade off, right?