“The foods we eat and our activity level directly influence our heart health. By beginning a weight loss and exercise program, we may postpone or prevent coronary heart disease.”
Despite the recent educational efforts to make people aware of the causes of heart disease and the measures necessary to prevent it, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in America for both men and women, claiming a life every 33 seconds. Each day 2,600 people die of this disease. Coronary heart disease is the major form of cardiovascular disease. You cannot control risk factors such as gender, age, and genetics, but you need to be aware of what you can control, which is a healthy diet and regular physical activity.
Diets high in cholesterol and saturated fats are often the cause for high blood cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease. People with a heart disease should be getting less than 200 milligrams of cholesterol each day. According to the American Heart Association, people with a heart disease should get less than 30 percent of their calories from fat and less than seven percent from saturated fat. In addition, salt intake should be limited to no more than a teaspoon a day.
What should you eat?
- Your diet should consist primarily of fruits, vegetables, grain products, lean meats, and fish.
- Try to decrease your level of fat (especially saturated fats) and cholesterol (i.e., fatty red meats, whole milk, whole milk cheeses, eggs, cream-based dishes, and rich desserts).
- You can cut fat and cholesterol by replacing fried foods with roasted, baked, grilled, steamed, and broiled foods.
- Buy only lean cuts of meat and trim away visible fat prior to eating.
- Remove the skin of chicken and turkey—the skin doubles the fat!
- Limit your intake of nuts and seeds, which are high in fat and calories.
Foods to avoid (high saturated fat content) include scones, cookies, pizza, cheese, milk, and other baked foods rich in butter, cheese, or cream.
Activity that reduces the risk or improves the symptoms of CHD does not require a structured or vigorous exercise program. The majority of the benefits of physical activity can be gained by performing moderate-intensity activities. Furthermore, physical activity must be performed regularly to maintain these benefits.
What type and what quantity of physical activity is recommended to prevent CHD?
The appropriate type of activity is best determined by the individual’s preferences and what will be sustained. People who are currently sedentary or minimally active should gradually build up to the recommended goal of 30 minutes daily by adding a few minutes each day.
- It is recommended that all children and adults should accumulate at least 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, or preferably all, days of the week.
- Intermittent or shorter bouts of activity (at least 10 minutes), including tasks of daily living, also have similar cardiovascular and health benefits if performed at a level of moderate intensity (i.e., brisk walking, cycling, home repair, yard-work).
- Developing muscular strength and joint flexibility is important for an overall activity program to reduce the potential for injury and improve one’s ability to perform tasks. Upper extremity and resistance training can improve muscular function.
*Talk to your doctor prior to starting a new exercise program.
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- Campbell, S. PT. (2009). Diabetes and Exercise. PT Northwest.