Calling the ladies: Tips for a healthy heart

Called the Silent killer, the numbers are staggering for heart disease in women. Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease, hypertension and stroke, is the number one killer of women, according to the American Heart Association. It kills half a million American women each year. That figure exceeds the next seven causes of death combined. Moreover, women are 15% more likely than men to die of a heart attack. And they are twice as likely to have a second heart attack in the six years following the first. Yet in a 2000 national heart association survey, only 34% of women correctly identified heart disease as a leading cause of death.

Eating well and being physically active are important for a healthy heart. Try these tips from the American Dietetic Association – your heart will thank you.

  • Lighten up you waist band. Losing even a few extra pounds helps unburden your heart. Look at where you carry your weight and start to take steps to reduce.
  • Be fat-savvy. Trim saturated fat and cholesterol by choosing lean meats, skinless poultry and low-fat or fat-free milk products. Look for foods with little or no trans fat in commercial and convenience food items. Choose healthier fats higher in poly and mono unsaturated fats.
  • Slash sodium. Look for reduced-salt and no-added-salt versions of canned soups, vegetables and prepared foods. Add less salt to foods. Try new flavors from fresh herbs and spices. Oregano, mint, thyme, and rosemary are just a few of the wonderful and nutritious options to flavor your food.
  • Load up on produce. Enjoy colorful fruits and vegetables – their fiber, vitamins and minerals are great for your heart and blood pressure. Variety is the key, as well as freshness. Look to purchase one for today and few to ripen, so that you don’t end up getting spoiled fruit as they turn all at the same time.
  • Go for whole grains. Eat at least three ounces daily of whole-grain foods such as whole-grain cereals, whole-wheat bread and pasta, and brown rice. Breakfast is a great time of day to get these options consistently. Cereals, bagels, and some bars make flavorful options and are portable for work.
  • Get hooked on fish. Eat omega-3-rich fish such as salmon, trout and herring at least twice a week. Living so close to the sea, we have wonderful fresh fish available daily. Wash well and cook through steaming, poaching, grill, or baking for the least amount of added fat.
  • Go a little nuts. Choose modest portions of foods with unsaturated fats such as vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. Keep raw unsalted nuts at work to snack on and enjoy a tastey heart healthy snack that is filling.
  • Focus on Fiber. The fiber in oatmeal, barley, fruits, vegetables, and legumes are for your heart. Try some new recipes that add these options into the family plate.
  • Be label conscious. The Nutrition Facts label can help you manage the calories, fiber, fat, cholesterol, sodium and other nutrients in the foods you eat. Look for less than 30% fat in each food product. This equates to no more than 3 grams of fat per 100 calories. Do the math and it might save your heart.
  • Move to the beat. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. Time strapped? Do 10-minutes at a time. Try brisk walking, jogging, dancing, biking, gardening-even grow those fruits and veggies for yourself now that’s fresh!

Need help eating right and staying active? Getting a custom plan for you may help to organize your personal situation. Start by identifying your risks and discuss with your physician options for reducing your heart disease risks. Records, plan making, and joining support networks are all great starting points for changing your lifestyle into a healthier one.

Tara Godfrey is a Nutritional Counsellor with the Canadian Society of Nutrition Management.