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Top 5 Habits of Heart Healthy People

posted Feb 21, 2018, 9:42 AM by Evangelina DiSpirito, RDN, E-RYT   [ updated Feb 23, 2018, 1:38 PM ]
By: Evangelina Dispirito, RDN, E-RYT

February is National Heart Health awareness month which gives us an opportunity to take stock of our own heart healthy eating and lifestyle habits.   On one of our previous blogs, we wrote about the benefits of a Mediterranean-based diet, which is based on eating more vegetables, beans, whole grains, healthy fats such as olive oil, walnuts, avocados and using meats more as garnishes.  Incorporating features of the Mediterranean diet into our own meals can be the approach we can take to protect our hearts.  Below are the ILC dietitian’s top 5 habits of Heart Healthy People.


1)      Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and vegetables are rich with nutrients that help prevent inflammation in the body.  Folate and it’s naturally occurring folic acid which is found in leafy green vegetables helps lower homocysteine levels in the body.  Homocysteine levels are elevated in heart disease. Beets contain naturally occurring nitrates which can help lower blood pressure to help promote optimal heart health.   Bananas are rich with potassium to help lower blood pressure as well.   Berries are found to reduce inflammation in the body.  Finally, both fruits and vegetables are a good source of fiber which can promote lower cholesterol and healthy gut.

Nutrition Tip:  Try having a salad with roasted beets, walnuts, raspberries and goat cheese with a drizzle of olive oil.


2)      Eat more plant-beans.  Beans are rich in iron, magnesium, folate and potassium, all which are linked to heart health by lowering levels of homocysteine and blood pressure.   Replacing meat entrees with beans will provide you with a heart-healthy protein.   


Nutrition Tip:  Try soaking beans overnight then rinse and cook for an hour.  The slow cooking method is better for retention of folate as well as reducing “gas-forming” properties of beans.


3)      Limit the added sugars in your meals and beverages.  Sugar increases your blood sugar and can cause the pancreas to release a surge of insulin into the blood stream.  Consistent consumption of foods high in sugar can lead to diabetes and cause insulin resistant, a condition where the body is unable to use its own blood sugar for fuel. 


Nutrition Tip:   Try lowering your sweet tooth by eating fresh fruits and instead of a candy bar for a snack.  Of if you are a coffee drinker, try cutting out the sugar in coffee for a week.


4)      Drink more water.   Severe dehydration can increase chances of a heart attack.  Athletes or individuals taking on exercise or hot yoga classes could have increase water loss from sweat.  If you are not consistently eating water-based foods such as fruits and vegetables at most meals, chances are you are chronically dehydrated.   High protein, low-carbohydrate diets can cause dehydration.   Aim to have more water with your meals.  Drink 4 to 6 ounces of water before eating, and you may find you consume less calories.  Often times we mistaken thirst for hunger.  Please note that with various health conditions such as kidney or congestive heart failure  the water recommendations will be lower.  Consult your physician.


Nutrition Tip:  Carry a refillable water each day.  Squeeze lemon juice or other place frozen berries for natural flavoring.


5)      Get moving:  Getting at least 150 minutes a week can reduce chances of getting Diabetes according to the results of the 16- week Diabetes Prevention Program.  Diabetes puts one at greater chances of getting heart disease. Physical activity each day is good for the mind and body.  It helps relieve depression but also helps our bodies utilized the fuel from the food we eat more efficiently.  Cardiovascular exercise such as walking, running, cycling, and swimming help condition the heart to pump blood more efficiently.  Strength training helps build muscle to help boost our metabolism.  Yoga stretch and mindfulness exercises help reduce stress and can lower cortisol levels within the body.  Elevated cortisol levels are linked with inflammation, increase blood sugar and inability to sleep.  All which can negatively affect heart health.

                     Exercise Tip:  Aim to get 30 minutes each day by adding extra activity in your day.