Eat wisely for a healthy heart

Justin Hamrick Health Educator OCHD

The Osage County Health Department wants to remind everyone that heart disease can happen at any age. As February is American Heart Healthy Month, now is a good time to review ways to be heart healthy.

You can manage your weight by eating healthy foods and controlling your portion sizes. How much you eat is just as important as what you eat. Here are some tips: Keep track of serving sizes and use smaller plates to control portions; plan your meals ahead of time; create daily menus to keep on track; make meals more interesting by trying something new; include vegetables and fruit in your snacks; and allow yourself a treat every now and then — a candy bar or handful of chips won’t hurt you on occasion.

What is important is that you eat healthy foods most of the time. Making small adjusts to your lifestyle can reap big rewards. Try implementing one tip each month and make them habits. Slow and steady changes will give long-lasting results.

Try a few things below to help make nutrition adjustments.

Make fresh vegetables and fruits the star of your diet. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber while being low in fat. They help to fill you up to avoid overeating less healthy foods.

Select whole grains. Whole grains are important sources of fiber and regulate blood pressure. Don’t just think whole grain bread; try oats, quinoa, farro or barley.

Limit unhealthy fats by reducing your saturated fats and avoiding trans fats. Trim your meats, and use less butter, margarine and shortening when cooking.

Choose good fats such as olive oil or canola. Polyunsaturated fats are found in certain fish, avocados, nuts and seeds and are good choices for a heart healthy diet. Ground flaxseed is an easy way to add fiber and healthy fat to your diet.

Choose low-fat protein sources. For your best source of proteins eat lean meat, fish, poultry, low fat dairy, legumes and eggs.

Reducing the amount of sodium in your diet is important to heart health. Sodium contributes to high blood pressure. The recommended amount is no more than 2,300 (mg) of sodium per day. Cooking your own meals instead of eating out and not eating processed foods helps to reduce your sodium amounts. Choose low salt options when possible, especially condiments, frozen meals and soups.

There are ways in addition to nutrition to create a healthier heart. Once again, try implementing the below habits one at a time to avoid becoming overwhelmed with changes.

Be active. The heart is a muscle that needs exercise to pump your blood through your body. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity a day. Don’t sit for long periods without taking a break to move around.

Tobacco and alcohol are hard on the heart. Quitting smoking is important to your heart health, smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack. Too much alcohol can damage your heart, cause weight gain and raise your blood pressure. Limit your drinks to one or two a day.

Manage your stress levels. Stress can increase your risk of a heart attack. Take a few deep breaths throughout the day. Remember to laugh.

Family history and early signs. If you have a family history or any signs such as tight pains during exertion that disappear when at rest, go see your doctor to get checked out.

Get plenty of rest. Adults should aim for at least seven hours of sleep a night.

(Article contains excerpts from the Mayo Clinic Heart-Healthy Diet — eight steps to prevent heart disease).