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Food For Thought For Reducing Risk Of Heart Disease

Food for thought for reducing risk of heart disease

Exercise, fresh fruit and vegetables are part of a heart healthy lifestyle. (Photo: udra, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Every day we are reminded to: “Eat healthy!” The message is reinforced through television and magazine ads as well as on the many self-improvement programs that address the importance of good diet for heart health and overall wellness. Most of us hear the message and, though our intentions may be good, quite often we are not fully aware of the steps we can take to reduce the risk of heart disease.

According to Dr. James Trapasso, a board-certified internist with New York-Presbyterian Medical Group Hudson Valley in Cortlandt Manor, “The foods we eat have both short-term and long-term effects on the heart and on overall health. Complications of poor diet on the heart are linked to the most common preventable diseases we see every day:  diabetes as a result of too much processed sugars and carbohydrates in the diet, hypertension, and coronary artery disease.  Weight gain raises the risk of diabetes, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease. Hypertension, often a result of too much salt intake, can cause medical problems that lead to congestive heart failure and stroke.”

Adds Jodie Ferrari, a registered dietitian with NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital, “Foods high in saturated fats and hydrogenated/trans fats are known to adversely affect blood lipids (fats), increasing the risk of artherosclerotic heart disease (“hardening of the arteries”).  This results in an increased demand on the heart to pump blood through narrower, plaque-filled vessels and a higher risk of heart attack or stroke. Excess weight requires the heart to work harder as there is more ‘body’ to fuel.”

Guidelines for a heart-healthy diet

When it comes to healthy eating habits, it is important to maintain a diet of moderation and adhere to the following suggested guidelines:

Limit saturated and trans fats: “Saturated fats are found in fatty meats, poultry skin, bacon, sausage, whole milk and whole milk products, cream, and butter. Trans fats are found in solid margarine, shortening, some fried foods and packaged desserts/snacks that list hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils on the label,” says Ms. Ferrari. The total amount of all fats consumed should be between 30-35 percent of the total calories per day; if you follow a diet of 2,000 calories a day, then the total amount of fat should be not exceed 75gm.

Be mindful of foods high in cholesterol: “Cholesterol issues are at the core of most heart disease, and saturated fat has been implicated as the leading underlying risk factor,” says Dr. Trapasso. “Foods highest in dietary cholesterol such as egg yolks, fatty meats, organ meats, whole milk products, and cheeses should be limited to 200mg/day.”

Pass on the salt shaker:  Ms. Ferrari notes that “the recommended amount of daily sodium intake is 2,000mg or less (salt consists of sodium and chloride and it is the sodium component that is associated with high blood pressure in some patients).  It is best to pass on the salt shaker and select foods containing no more than 140mg of sodium per serving.  Always check the portion size on the label and remember that if more than one portion is eaten, more cholesterol, fat and sodium will be consumed as well.”

Control the carbs: While carbohydrate consumption is not necessarily the direct cause of an increased risk of heart disease, clearly the bigger problem is their relatively high calorie count, and its impact on weight gain. According to Dr. Trapasso, “the full impact of carbohydrates depends on individual needs, lifestyle, medical history, and activity level. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, 45-65 percent of daily calories should actually come from carbohydrates.” In general, suggests Ms. Ferrari, all meals should be balanced and consist of lean protein, recommended fats, and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates consist of fruits (fresh and frozen are highest in nutrients and fiber), vegetables, whole grains and products made from them, beans/legumes.

Heart-healthy eating: make it a habit!

1. Eat fish at least twice a week.

2. Choose lean meats, skinless poultry and prepared without added saturated fat.

3.  Look for fat-free and low-fat dairy products.

4. Opt for unhydrogenated vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, olive or nut oils.

5. Enjoy nuts, seeds, and fresh fruits for snacks.

6. Consider meat alternatives that are also good sources of lean protein such as beans, lentils, tofu, and textured vegetable protein.

7. Reduce beverages and foods with added sugars.

8. Avoid processed/prepared foods that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils under the listed ingredients.

9.  Pass up cream and cheese sauces, and gravies.

Finally, advises Dr. Trapasso, “Starting an exercise program, limiting alcohol, eating portion-controlled balanced meals, not smoking and learning skills to relax and reduce stress are all healthy habits that everyone should adopt in order to maintain overall health and reduce their risk of heart disease.”

Story Credit: http://www.lohud.com/story/sponsor-story/newyork-presbyterian-hospital/2017/03/20/health-reducing-risk-heart-disease/99307056/