Maintaining a Healthy Heart
Posted on February 1, 2017 by CHS
February is American Heart Month, a time to spread awareness the importance of heart health. Today, cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke and high blood pressure are number one killer among American women and men. Instead of giving out chocolate and candies on Valentine’s Day, isn’t it better to spread awareness on how to maintain a healthy heart?
Here are some heart health tips:
- Be a good role model – children learn by watching their parents. You don’t have to be perfect all the time but if your child sees you making an effort to eat right and be physically active, it will motivate her to do the same while sending a message that good health is important to your family.
- Stop smoking – avoiding tobacco completely is a sure-fire way to help protect your health and blood vessels. Smoking is one of the top controllable risk factors for heart disease. Quitting tobacco will make a huge difference to your heart and your overall health. By teaching your child early on about the consequences of smoking, he will be less likely to fall to peer pressure in his teenage years.
- Get the whole family moving – Organize some time for everyone to get moving together. Go to the nearby parks for a walk, ride bikes, play in the playground, and have some family bonding time. Not only will everyone get the benefit of exercising but they will also feel closer with the family.
- Limit TV, video game, computer and mobile time – Spending too much time on electronic devices can lead to a sedentary lifestyle and excessive snacking. This can increase the risks for obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Limit screen time to 2 hours per day for both your family and yourself.
- Encourage physical activities that your child will enjoy – There are many activities out there like basketball, ballet, and swimming. Let your child experiment with different activities until she finds something she loves. She will stick with it longer if she loves it.
- Choose dark chocolate – Still craving chocolate on Valentine’s Day? Eat dark chocolate instead of over-sweetened milk chocolates. Dark chocolates contain heart-healthy flavonoids. These compounds help reduce inflammation and lower your risk of heart diseases. But, moderation is the key. Limit yourself to a small piece a day.
- Enjoy relaxing activities – Stress is a huge factor in many cardiovascular diseases. Engaging activities like knitting, jigsaw puzzles, and adult coloring books can help relieve stress and also take the edge off after a long day. The less stressed you are, the lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- Laugh out loud – This doesn’t mean LOL on Facebook posts or texting, but actually laughing out loud in your daily life. Watch some funny clips on YouTube or tell jokes with your family and friends. According to the American Heart Association, research suggests laughing can lower stress hormones, decrease inflammation in your arteries, and raise your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HLD), also known as “good cholesterol.”
- Have healthier eating habits for the whole family – Make as much home cooked food as possible so you can control what goes into your food. Fast food every once in a while is alright, but don’t make it into a habit. Also get everyone to learn about what’s good for their health and be more conscious of that they eat by reading food labels.
To improve healthy eating habits, it is essential to know what some of the words mean on the food labels. Below are some of the words you may find on the label of your favorite food item. It is also important to note that even when certain food is good for you, everything needs to be consumed in moderation.
- Saturated Fats (BAD) – type of fat that is solid at room temperature and can increase blood cholesterol more than any other type of fat. It can be found in fatty cuts of meats, dairy and dairy products made with whole and 2% milk, butter, ice cream, and coconut oil. It is recommended to eat as little saturated fat as possible.
- Unsaturated Fats (GOOD) – categorized as either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated. Both do not raise cholesterol and can help to lower cholesterol when they are used in place of saturated and trans fats. Unsaturated fats can be found in corn, soy, salmon, trout, olive oils, canola oils, peanut oils, avocados, and nuts. Most of the fats consumed should come from unsaturated fats.
- Trans Fats (BAD) – fats made during hydrogenation, a process used to keep polyunsaturated fats solid at room temperature and to make the fats last longer. Trans fats raise LDL and increase the risk of heart disease. Trans fats can be found in deep-fried foods and baked goods and also naturally in small amounts in beef, pork lamb, butter, and milk. Foods with trans fats should be limited and consumed as little as possible.
- Fiber (GOOD) – a food component that the body cannot digest or absorb. These are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. While insoluble fiber is important in preventing constipation and decreasing the risk of colon cancer, soluble fiber helps with cholesterol levels. Diets high in fiber can lower LDL cholesterol. Fiber can be found in whole grains, fruits with skin, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds.
- Sodium (BAD when overconsumed) – also known as salt, is a necessary compound for many body functions but too much sodium can increase blood pressure. Sodium can be found in processed foods like lunch meats, canned foods, slated nuts, frozen dinners, salad dressings, and chips. Sodium intake should be less than 2,300 milligrams each day.
- Omega 3 (GOOD with moderation) – fats that the body needs to carry out normal body functions. Our body cannot make these fats, so these fats need to come from the diet. Omega 3 fats have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Omega 3 fats can be found in fatty fish like salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel, and sardines. While Omega 3 fats are important for our bodies, it needs to be taken in moderation due to the risk for mercury content. It is recommended to eat about 2 servings of fish each week.