Health Feature Articles
Healthy habits make a healthy heart
Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension
Heart disease is often described as the silent disease because it can be developing many years before there are any signs or symptoms. Heart disease can include many conditions. Among them are congestive heart failure, stroke, congenital heart defects and coronary heart disease, which includes heart attack and angina. Risk factors that can lead to heart disease include high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
Healthy lifestyles are important for heart health for people of all ages. Implementing these healthy habits will help you to prevent or delay the onset of heart disease and the risk factors associated with it.
- Consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
They are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber — and
they’re low in calories. Eating a variety of fruits
and vegetables may help you control your weight and
your blood pressure.
- Choose whole grain, high fiber foods. Soluble fiber helps control cholesterol and
insoluble fiber has been shown to decrease the
progression of cardiovascular disease in high-risk
- Consume fish, especially oily fish, at least
twice per week. Oily fish such as
salmon, trout and herring contribute omega-3 fatty acids which are
associated with a reduced risk of death from
coronary artery disease.
- Limit fat in your diet to no more than 20-35
percent of total calories. Saturated fat should be
no more than 10 percent of total calories. The
average American should consume around 2,000
calories per day. If 30 percent of the calories came
from fat, total fat should be no more than 67 grams
and saturated fat should be less than 22 grams. Of
course, you don’t need any saturated fat, so less is
- Watch sodium intake. Sodium can contribute to
high blood pressure. Aim to eat less than 2,300
milligrams of sodium per day. If you are at risk for
high blood pressure, your goal should be to consume
1,500 milligrams or less per day.
- Watch your portion sizes. Larger portions mean
higher calories, and higher calories can mean weight
gain. Being overweight can place an extra burden on
- If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. That
is no more than two drinks per day for men and no
more than one drink per day for women.
- Get plenty of physical activity. Everyone should get 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Moderate exercise should make you feel slightly out of breath. A brisk walk is an example of moderate exercise. If you don’t have 30 minutes, you can do it in 10 minute increments and still enjoy the health benefits.
Practice these healthy habits and you will most likely reap more benefits than just a healthy heart.
Last Updated 03/12/2012