Heart Health: preventing heart disease

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Heart Health: preventing heart disease

by: Megan Chapman | .
Okinawa Marine | .
published: February 22, 2014

While February is often celebrated as a month of love and romance, the Center for Disease Control has also deemed it American Heart Month for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States.

With today’s busy lifestyle, people consume many unhealthy, processed foods, without a proper balance of fruits and vegetables in their diet.

The CDC reports that about 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year – that is one in every four deaths.

High blood pressure, high- and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease.

Obesity and other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, also contribute to the risk of developing heart disease.

However, cardiovascular disease is preventable through exercise, smoking cessation, limited alcohol consumption and eating healthy oils, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Small lifestyle changes can cut your risk by up to 83 percent.

If you are worried about heart disease, one of the most important things you can do is to start eating a heart-healthy diet. Changing your diet can help stop or even reverse heart disease.

At first, it may seem like there is a lot to learn. But you don’t have to make these changes all at once. Start small. Over time, small changes can add up to a big difference in your heart health.

Learn your personal heart disease risk factors. Pull out your most recent test results (cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure), call your doctor to get them, or make an appointment for testing.

Knowing your numbers is important to preventing heart disease. Find out what yours are today!

The following foods listed are all top-performers in protecting your heart and blood vessels:

• Oatmeal—Start your day with a steaming bowl of oats, which are full of omega-3 fatty acids, folate and potassium. This fiber-rich food can lower levels of LDL or bad cholesterol and help keep arteries clear. Opt for coarse or steel-cut oats, which contain more fiber than instant varieties.

• Salmon—Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon can reduce blood pressure and prevent clotting. Aim for two servings per week, which may reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack by up to one-third.

• Avocado—Add avocado to a sandwich or spinach salad to up the amount of heart-healthy fats in your diet. Packed with monounsaturated fat, avocados can help lower your LDL levels while raising the amount of HDL cholesterol.

• Nuts—Walnuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids and, along with almonds and macadamia nuts, are loaded with monoand polyunsaturated fat. Plus, nuts increase fiber in the diet.

• Spinach—Spinach can help keep your ticker in top shape thanks to its stores of lutein, folate, potassium and fiber. But upping your servings of any veggies is sure to give your heart a boost. The Physicians’ Health Study examined more than 15,000 people without heart disease for 12 years. Those who ate at least two-and-a-half servings of vegetables daily cut their risk of heart disease by about 25 percent, compared with those who didn’t eat veggies. Each additional serving reduced risk by another 17 percent.

• Flaxseed—Full of fiber and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, a little sprinkling of flaxseed can go a long way for your heart. Top a bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal with a bit of ground flaxseed for the ultimate heart-healthy breakfast.

Chapman is a registered nurse and Marine Corps Community Services Health Promotion Wellness Educator.