According to 2015 CDC data, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Every year about 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack. Risk factors include hypertension, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes, weight gain, inactivity, excessive alcohol intake and smoking. You can significantly decrease your chances of having a heart attack by improving your diet and being more physically active.
Here are some tips to help decrease your risks:
- Eat moderate amounts of total carbs and limit your intake of foods high in sugars such as desserts, baked goods and sugar sweetened beverages. If you are not very active, try to limit starchy foods such as rice, potato, pasta and bread to 2-3 servings per meal. One serving is equal to 1 slice of bread or ½ cup of potato or 1/3 cup of rice or pasta. Also, whenever possible choose whole grains.
- Replace the animal fats and trans fats (hydrogenated oils) with a moderate amount of liquid oils, nuts, seeds, avocados. About 1-2 handful of nuts, 2 tablespoons of oil and one-half avocado a day satisfies your fat requirement. You can also include two servings (total of 8 oz) a week of fatty fish such as salmon, Atlantic herring, Atlantic mackerel or farmed rainbow trout to meet the requirement for omega-3-fatty acids.
- For protein, choose less red meat and eat more fish. Remove fats and skin from your meats.
- Eat 2-3 servings of fruit a day and an unlimited amount of non-starchy vegetables. Half of your plate should be vegetables. Choose colorful vegetables as they contain more antioxidants, whether raw or cooked.
- Limit alcohol to one drink a day for women and two for men. One alcohol serving is equal to 4-5 oz wine, 1 oz hard liquor or 1 twelve ounce bottle of beer. Excessive consumption of alcohol increases the risk of heart disease.
- Include more fiber in your diet, particularly viscous fiber such as psyllium (used in Metamucil). This can help regulate your bowel, help with weight management and reduce bad cholesterol.
- Be physically active, do not smoke, manage your stress and consult with your doctor if you need medication to help decrease your risk for heart disease.
Ultimately, your heart health is a matter of personal responsibility. You can choose to live an active, healthful lifestyle that will improve your overall quality of life. It takes some effort, but a long hike begins with a single step. Before you know it, good heart health will become a habit.
February is American Heart Month and The Alaska Club is celebrating all month long with tips and information on how to live a healthier life. Visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheAlaskaClub/