According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, but it’s estimated that around 80% of cardiovascular disease is preventable. It’s never too late to take time to optimize your lifestyle to strengthen and protect your heart.
Heart disease includes many different conditions, the most common being coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD occurs when cholesterol-containing plaque builds up in the artery walls, blocking blood flow from the heart. This can lead to angina (chest pain) or even a heart attack. Risk factors for CAD include family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, inactivity and smoking. The good news is that some of these risk factors can be controlled.
Check out our top two favorite heart-healthy lifestyle tips:
1. Focus on including certain nutrients more often.
You may have heard recommendations to limit salt, saturated fat and trans fat for heart health. However, it can also help to focus on nutrients you can eat more of to protect your heart.
• Fiber plays a vital role in your overall health. In terms of heart health risk factors, fiber has been associated with decreased cholesterol, lower blood pressure and improved blood sugar control. Plus, as a bonus, fiber can help you feel full longer. Choose plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains (in place of refined grains) to increase your fiber intake. The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily fiber intake of 25 grams of fiber for women (age 19-50) and 38 grams of fiber for men (age 19-50).
• Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Omega-3 fatty acids include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Most people consume enough ALA, which is mostly found in plant oils such as flaxseed, soybean and canola. EPA and DHA are mostly found in fish. The American Heart Association recommends eating 2 servings of fatty fish per week; however, it’s important to watch the mercury content of fish you eat. Fish that are higher in omega-3 fatty acids and lower in mercury include anchovies, sardines, herring, salmon and trout.
• Potassium, calcium and magnesium are key components of the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), a meal pattern shown to improve cholesterol and blood pressure. To ensure adequate intake of these nutrients, focus on your fruit, vegetable, whole grain and dairy intake!
2. Incorporate physical activity into your daily life.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), “Even with risk factors for heart disease […] people who enjoy regular physical activity have lower death rates than people who have no risk factors but who aren’t physically active.” The AHA recommends getting at least 75 minutes of vigorous or 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per week. Aerobic activity includes walking, swimming, biking and even dancing. It can also be beneficial to partake in strength training, such as weightlifting or bodyweight activities, twice per week. We recommend consulting with your physician before beginning an exercise routine.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to start your heart health journey or discussing individualized nutrition recommendations, schedule an appointment with a Kroger dietitian today.
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Disclaimer: This information is educational only and is not meant to provide healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.