health care,
education and
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health care,
education  and
social services

8 Tips To Keep Your Heart Healthy

The heart is essential to almost everything that goes on in your body. It is constantly pumping blood to make sure your organs are able to keep operating. Cardiovascular disease or injury weakens the heart, so it’s important to do your best to keep your heart strong enough to handle its heavy workload. Zara Awan, a Nutritionist in the Mary’s Center WIC Program, has some great advice to help you.

There is no magic pill or superfood that can ensure a healthy heart. Making healthy lifestyle choices overall is the key to preventing heart disease. Not smoking, following a healthy diet and staying physically active can improve the functioning of your heart and positively impact the risk factors associated with heart disease.

When it comes to your diet, eating nutritious balanced meals can lower your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and prevent obesity which are all precursors for heart disease. Instead of solely concentrating on specific nutrients like fat or dietary cholesterol, take a look at your diet as a whole and practice the methods below as ammunition to help your fight against heart disease.

·         Paint Your Plate
Fruits and vegetables contain countless vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, so half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables. When choosing canned vegetables, make sure you choose brands labeled no-salt/sodium-added, to help prevent high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease.

·         Choose Whole Grains
Replace half of the starches you eat, like potatoes or white rice, with whole grains like brown rice or whole wheat bread. Incorporating whole grains has been shown to lower your risk for high cholesterol which lowers your risk for heart disease.

·         Eat More Fish
Salmon, trout and tuna are great components in a heart healthy diet. These fish contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which decrease triglyceride levels and slow the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque (a buildup of cholesterol and other materials that narrows your arteries).

salmon dish

·         Avoid Processed Meats
Processed meats have been shown time and time again to increase your risk for heart disease. Processed meats, which include bacon, hot dogs, sausage and other deli meats, are filled with salt and packed with preservatives like nitrites. Avoiding them is vital in keeping your heart healthy. Instead, go for fresh lean meats like fresh chicken or turkey.

·         Cut the Soda
High soda intake has been linked to heart failure. In one can of soda there is a whopping 10 teaspoons of sugar! This excess sugar intake can lead to diabetes and obesity, which are also risk factors of heart disease. If you still need the sweet bubbly kick, try a glass of carbonated water filled with your favorite fruit, like lemon.

·         Control Portion Sizes
Be sure to pay attention to how much you’re eating. Often times we are usually served more than what’s recommended, so choose smaller plates at meal times and pack half of the meal you get at the restaurant for later. Pasta is a food that that we commonly consume too much of; one portion of pasta is actually ½ cup, about the size of a baseball. Check out more portion sizes at www.choosemyplate.gov.  Watching out for portion sizes can help keep you on track to eating right for a healthy heart.

·         Read Food Labels
When reading food labels, be sure to pay attention to serving size. Knowing how much of the product a serving is valuable when comparing nutrition information. You should also pay attention to the sodium and added sugars. Avoid foods that have trans fats.

·         Be Physically Active
Thirty minutes of moderate physical activity a day, five times a week is what is recommended for average adults. Physical activity is anything that keeps you moving and burns calories. If you haven’t been active lately, you can start off with small changes like taking the stairs or parking far away so you can walk longer to your destination.  Being physically active can help you lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and risk for heart attack and stroke.

If you would like to make an appointment with our medical providers to discuss your hearth health, please call 1-844-796-2797 today!

Zara AwanAbout Zara Awan

Zara Awan is a Nutritionist in Mary’s Center’s WIC Program. She sees participants at the site on Georgia Avenue in Washington, DC.  She obtained a BS in Dietetics from Michigan State University, and completed her research-focused dietetic internship at Virginia State University. She is currently taking her last steps in becoming a Registered Dietitian. Zara enjoys strawberries, broccoli and avocados as snacks and believes it’s important to paint your plate with different fruits and vegetables. She loves baking, running, reading, traveling and spending time with family and friends. She speaks fluent English and Urdu and basic Arabic. Zara says: “I have always had a passion for serving others especially when it comes to nutrition and I enjoy guiding clients to help them create healthy lifestyles through the Mary's Center WIC program.”

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