By Lauren Dimitrov, MPH, RDN, LDN
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the number one killer in the U.S. Lifestyle modification is a critical component of health promotion and CVD risk reduction, both prior to or in conjunction with the use of cholesterol-lowering drug therapies. Lifestyle modification includes a heart healthy diet, weight management, increased physical activity, and smoking cessation. This article will focus on some key components of a heart healthy diet.
Start by knowing how many calories you should be eating and drinking to maintain your weight or to lose weight if necessary. Your calorie level is based on several factors including age, gender, and level of physical activity. A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) can determine your caloric needs and help you to develop a plan that is tailored to your specific needs. Here are a few general, evidence-based guidelines:
• Overall, the emphasis should be on the intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; include low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, non-tropical vegetable oils and nuts.
• Limit your intake of sweets, sugar containing beverages.
• Limit saturated fats: Saturated fats raise the level of cholesterol in your blood. Many foods high in saturated fats can be high in calories too. These include fatty meat, poultry skin, bacon, sausage, whole milk, cream and butter.
• Limit trans fats: Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels and are found in stick margarine, shortening, some fried foods, and packaged foods made with hydrogenated oils.
• Eat more heart healthy fats (omega-3 fats): Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of CVD. Good choices include salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines. Aim to eat fish twice per week. Walnuts, canola oil, and soybean oil are also good sources.
• Lower sodium intake to 2,400 mg per day; reducing to 1,500 mg/day is more desirable.
• Increase your dietary fiber intake: aim for 20 to 30 grams per day: fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains are good sources.
Call 904.493.3333 to schedule an appointment with our Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Lauren Dimitrov.