Elizabeth S. Reames | 2/2/2009 11:38:03 PM
LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames observes February as American Heart Month by stressing the importance of taking steps to prevent heart disease. Coronary heart disease is the nation’s single leading cause of death, according to the American Heart Association.
For a healthy heart, the nutritionist recommends to:
– Eat a variety of nutritious foods from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, meat/beans and milk.
“Although you may be eating plenty of food, your body might not be getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy,” Reames says, advising, “Make smart choices to get the nutrients you need.”
– Eat vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and they’re low in calories. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight and your blood pressure.
– Choose whole grains. Unrefined whole-grain foods contain fiber that can help lower your blood cholesterol and help you feel full, which may help you manage your weight.
– Eat fish at least twice a week. Recent research shows that eating oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids (for example, salmon, trout and herring) may help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease.
– Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat.
– Select fat-free, 1 percent fat and low-fat dairy products.
– Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet. Trans fats raise bad blood cholesterol levels.
– Cut back on foods high in dietary cholesterol. Aim to eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day.
– Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars.
– Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Aim to eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.
– Maintain a healthy weight. The number of calories you need each day is based on your age and physical activity level and whether you're trying to gain, lose or maintain your weight. Limit foods and beverages high in calories but low in nutrients. Read food labels carefully; the nutrition facts panel will tell you how much of those nutrients each food or beverage contains – and keep an eye on portion sizes!
– Aim for at least two and one-half hours a week (30 minutes a day) of moderate physical activity. Walking briskly, water aerobics, ballroom dancing and general gardening are examples of moderately intense aerobic activities. Regular physical activity can help you maintain your weight, keep off weight that you lose and help you reach physical and cardiovascular fitness. If you can’t do at least 30 minutes at one time, you can add up 10-minute sessions throughout the day.
– If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation; that’s one drink per day if you’re a woman and two drinks per day if you’re a man.