By: Red Hot Mamas
Published: April 16, 2012
Heart disease is the number one killer in the US, yet many of us still continue a lifestyle that further abuses our delicate arteries that supply blood to the heart. We always hear about how we need to change our lifestyle to promote heart-healthy living, but what exactly are those changes? What is heart-healthy living?
A strong, vibrant heart-healthy way of living is one that begins with making the right daily health choices that you can carry with you at any age. The good news is, the negative effects of poor diet and lifestyle can actually be reversed by implementing a structured plan to correct poor habits. Medical research demonstrates that making the right food choices is more heart protective than taking statins. The everyday choices you make are not only your best defense against heart disease and stroke, it’s also your responsibility.
Red Hot Mamas expert, Dr. Verna Brooks McKenzie shares some ideas to prevent heart disease through a heart-heatlhy lifestyle.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke can be prevented. By educating yourself about your personal risk factors and lifestyle changes, you can lower the risk of high cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. You can also achieve a healthy body weight, maintain it and effectively manage stress.
Saturated fat (usually solid at room temperature) tends to raise blood cholesterol. Therefore, decreasing intake is important for lowering cholesterol. Decreasing total fat intake also helps to reduce excess calories that have other health benefits.
Omega-3, heart healthy fats found in nuts, seeds, avocado, olive, canola, peanut oil and the oils of cold water fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring) may help to prevent atherosclerosis, which is the building up of plaque in the blood vessel wall leading to narrowing and reduced blood flow.
Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes to increase the amount of fiber and lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Women should aim to get 25 grams of total fiber per day in their diet. Oat bran and oatmeal rich in beta-glucan, a form of soluble fiber has been shown to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
Exercise improves heart function and reduces cardiovascular disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high blood cholesterol and triglycerides. Not to mention, exercise also reduces risk for developing osteoporosis and encourages better balance and coordination reducing the risk of falls that may result in fractures. Exercise decreases the production of stress hormones and improves mood leading to a better quality of life. Regular exercise combined with healthy eating habits can result in loss of body fat in people who are overweight and obese.
Some tips for adding physical activity to your life include:
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator
- Doing house hold chores such as vacuuming, gardening
- Walking short distances several times a day
- Aerobics, stretching, strength training
- Starting a formal exercise program
Proper diet, exercise, smoking cessation and avoidance of second hand smoke are key to the achievement of cardiovascular disease risk reduction. Making a lifestyle change is challenging because you have to feel motivated to eat better and exercise more so it’s important to set realistic goals. The process of change takes time so ask for support and visit your healthcare provider at least once a year to check your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.
About the Author: Verna Brooks McKenzie MB., BS., FACOG, NCMP is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist/Certified Menopause Practitioner with over seventeen years of experience in training, lecturing and public speaking on women’s reproductive health issues internationally including Ghana West Africa. Learn more about Dr. McKenzie and our other Red Hot Mamas advisors.
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