Heart is like a central station for the blood vessel, it supplies fresh oxygenated blood and nutrients to the body. Meanwhile, it removes carbon dioxide and other wastes from the body. With a good functional heart, our organs and tissues continuously receive fresh blood.
There are many factors play roles in maintaining a good heart health, such as lifestyle, genetics, and medication. Among these three factors, lifestyle is the only one that fully controlled/manipulated by ourselves. Lifestyle consists of three major components: nutrition, physical activity, and mental health. This month we will focus on nutrition and physical activity (I personally think that with a good nutrition and physical activity may indirectly benefit for good mental health).
There is an old saying about ‘Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’. I wouldn’t said food can cure diseases, but a good nutrition may help to prevent/delay development of some chronic diseases. The concept of heart healthy diet has been established for a long time, and I am sure many of you have heard about this diet previously. The key points of heart healthy diet are to enjoy food in MODERATION, go for lower fat diet, choose healthy fat, eat adequate fiber, and practice low sodium.
Practice portion control which can be done by tracking your daily food intake and taking your time to enjoy every meal (chew longer when eating to prevent overeating). REMEMBER: no matter how healthy or nutritious a food item is, if we overeat, it turns into extra calories.
Make colorful fruits and vegetables your friends: Fruits and vegetables are packed with soluble fiber, insoluble fiber, and vitamins/minerals. Fiber helps to keep our cholesterol low.
Try low-fat dairy products and lean protein to help cut back on total fat and saturated fat. The lean protein we mentioned here are fish, poultry, and beans.
Practice lean cooking method: Instead of going for fried food, we try grilled/baked/roasted (without adding excessive oil while cooking). By doing so, it could help you stay off excess total fat and saturated fat.
Choose healthy fat: Instead of cooking with butter/lard/shortening, we use vegetable oil (canola, sunflower, olive, grapeseed oil). This way you can limit saturated fat/trans fat intake. If you are thinking to focus more on healthy type of fat, nuts/seeds/avocados/fish are packed with many mono- and polyunsaturated fat, which are well-known for their heart healthy properties.
Eat fresh instead of processed: Fresh fruits/vegetables/meats tend to be lower in sodium content. Processed foods like ham, deli meats, canned food, prepackaged meals, cheese, condiments (ketchup, soy sauce, pickles, barbecue sauces), and baked goods, on the other hand, contain WAY TOO MUCH of hidden sodium. Eating too much sodium may lead to hypertension (high blood pressure), edema (retention of fluid in the body causing swelling), and shortness of breath.
Quit the habit of using salt shaker at the table. This step will help you to reduce consumption of sodium. Suggestion here: instead of salt to taste, we sprinkle with herbs/spices (like oregano, basil, rosemary) or black pepper.
Season your food with low sodium salt alternative or herbs/spices/lemon juice/vinegar
OKAY, after taking care of our fuel (food), now we need to work on some physical activity. There are too many benefits from being physically active: it improves (lower) blood pressures, help to sleep better, maintains healthy weight, reduce stress, and many more. It is recommended to perform at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and also include at least 2 days per week of moderate-to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity (such as resistance or weights). If you are interested to learn more about the type and example of physical activities, please refer to American Heart Association for recommendations.
American Heart Association (2018). American Heart Association recommendations for physical activity in adults and kids. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults
Jari Love. Avoid a heart attack by making healthy lifestyle changes [Digital Image]. Retrieved from https://www.jarilove.com/blog/nutrition-tips/avoid-a-heart-attack-by-making-healthy-lifestyle-changes/
NC Cooperative Extension. Physical activity for improved heart health [Digital Image]. Retrieved from https://union.ces.ncsu.edu/2017/02/physical-activity-for-improved-heart-health/
PR Newswire. USA Today: Why the DASH, mediterranean diets are the best ways to eat [Digital Image]. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/01/04/why-dash-mediterranean-diets-best-ways-eat/1002841001/