Recommendations for a Healthy Heart

By Patrice Powers-Barker, OSU Extension, Lucas County
The Truth Contributor

Leading heart health experts remind us that we have the power to protect against heart disease. All the small, heart-healthy actions like adding more movement to the day or choosing more healthy foods can have a big, positive impact on our heart health. Certainly, the medical aspect of health care is extremely important! Work with your health care professional to make sure that your get your cholesterol checked and your blood pressure checked. Ask your health care professional about your personal risks for heart health and take their advice.

In addition, small changes to your daily routine and choices can help keep a strong heart. Some of the recommendations might not seem directly related to nutrition but all the health recommendations work together. For example, one of the recommendations for heart health is to sleep well. According to the American Heart Association, most people need six to eight hours of sleep each day. Way too little or way too much sleep can increase the risk of heart problems.

Staying hydrated is another recommendation for heart health. When the body is hydrated, it helps muscles work efficiently. It helps the heart easily pump blood through the body. When dehydrated, your heart needs to work harder. Certainly, water is a good choice but other drinks as well as foods like fruits and vegetables help make sure our body stays hydrated. It’s also a good idea to take a drink of water before exercising or being out in the sun, as well as drinking water while doing those activities. It will help the body – and heart – work well.

When it comes to healthy food choices, there are foods to limit for heart health. Some of these include limiting sodium (salt), saturated fat, added sugars, and alcohol.

On the other hand, there are foods you can eat more of to create a heart-healthy eating plan. For vegetables, think dark, green such as broccoli and leafy greens such as spinach, collard greens, kale, and cabbage. Heart healthy fruits include apples, bananas, oranges, pears, grapes, and prunes. Choose whole grains like plain oatmeal, brown rice, and whole grain bread or tortillas. Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy produces like milk, cheese, or yogurt. There are many protein-rich foods that are good for heart health, some of them meat, some of them plant products. Choose, Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, and trout), Lean meats such as 95% lean ground beef or pork tenderloin or skinless chicken or turkey, Eggs, Nuts, seeds, and soy products (tofu), and such as kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and lima beans. In addition, use oils and foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like, Canola, corn, olive, safflower, sesame, sunflower, and soybean oils (not coconut or palm oil), and Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and pine nuts, Nut and seed butters, Seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, or flax) , Avocados and Tofu.

Use the following shopping and cooking tips to prepare food that is better for your heart.

  • Read food labels to compare two different food products. Choose the food with less sodium and less fat per serving size.
  • Look for food that is labeled low-sodium, reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added products.
  • Choose fresh or frozen foods and then season them yourself. Often a pre-seasoned, sauce-marinated, brined, or processed meats, poultry, or vegetables will have added salt and fat.
  • Use plain rice, noodles, and ready-made pasta and add your own flavors. Often the premade sauces, mixes, and instant products are high in fat or salt.
  • Flavor your vegetables or meats and poultry with herbs and spices verses salt.
  • When cooking, use vegetable oil (canola, olive, peanut, etc.) instead of butter. Avoid fats high in saturated fat like coconut and palm oils.
  • Oil-based salad dressings like balsamic vinaigrette or Italian are usually a better option instead of creamy dressings like ranch.

Information from the Million Hearts, National Institutes of Health, and the American Heart Association