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Living a healthy lifestyle is central to maintaining wellness throughout your lifetime. In fact, healthy habits not only help you to feel good and manage illness today, they can also help prevent future disease. There are many behaviors that influence your health - what you eat, how you sleep, if you smoke, how active you are, how you manage stress - to name just a few. You can improve your quality of life by making simple, positive changes to your daily routine.
Where to start?
We've collected useful facts and tips to inform, motivate and support steps towards a healthier lifestyle. Remember, small changes are powerful. Start today!
Healthy lifestyle and diet are primary tools to keep cardiovascular disease at bay. Here are some basic rules: exercise 30 minutes most days of the week, don’t smoke, achieve and maintain a healthy weight and include lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein in your diet. Need more info? Check out www.myplate.gov for a plan tailored to your needs. Here are more heart-healthy tips:
For heart health, fruits and vegetables are an easy choice. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. They keep arteries healthy, remove cholesterol from the body and help control blood pressure. Most adults should eat 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit per day and 1 ½ to 3 ½ cups of vegetables, depending on body size.
Omega-3 fats are known for their support of our cardiovascular system. They decrease the risk of sudden death, reduce inflammation, lower triglycerides and thin blood. Sardines, salmon, herring, mackerel and trout are all good sources of omega-3 fats. For people without heart disease, two servings per week (averaging 400-500 mg of omega-3 fat per day) is the recommended amount. For those with heart disease, target 1,000 mg per day. Note that if buying a supplement, check out the amount of EPA and DHA in the product. These are the key omega-3 oils. The total fish oil may be higher. If you are on blood thinners, such as Coumadin or aspirin, check with your doctor before using a supplement.
If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. This means one drink per day for women and two for men. Studies have shown that small amounts of alcohol promote heart health. However, too much alcohol has negative side effects, including raising blood pressure. Alcohol is also a good source of calories, so can promote obesity, another risk factor for heart disease.
Saturated fats are major contributors to high cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are found in fatty meats and full-fat dairy products. When planning meals, focus on chicken and fish as well as low-fat milk and cheese. In the beef category, keep to 3-ounce portions of round, sirloin, chuck arm or extra lean ground beef. For something really different: try plant-based sources of protein, including beans, tofu and other soy products. They are low in saturated fats.
Controlling blood pressure can be as easy as cutting back on the sodium. Recommendations are to take in less than 2,300 mg per day (that’s about one teaspoon of salt). Targeting less than 1500 mg per day will produce even better results. Average sodium consumption in the US is roughly 3,600 mg. The biggest culprits? Processed foods and prepared foods. Become a label reader. Look for sodium of less than 140 mg/serving or 600 mg per meal to stay within the guidelines.
What will the dietitian and I talk about during a nutrition assessment?
What is Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT)?