HAWC offers tips, advice for American Heart Month

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  • By Sheila Rupp
  • Nucleus
One in three American adults has one or more types of cardiovascular diseases according to the American Heart Association. In nearly every year since 1900, cardiovascular diseases have accounted for more deaths than any other single cause or group of causes in the United States. These deaths can be avoided by prevention and education.

February has been proclaimed by Congress as American Heart Month for over 40 years. Diet and exercise both play a large part in a healthy heart.

Morgan Saucedo, registered dietician at the Health and Wellness Center, said there are some very easy tips for changing your diet to "heart healthy." She said that by limiting the saturated fat and cholesterol in meals you avoid raising your low density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol. LDL is known as "bad" cholesterol, which can build up on the inner walls of arteries and eventually it will clog the arteries. These blockages can cause heart attacks and strokes.

Cholesterol intake should be limited to no more than 300 milligrams each day, Ms. Saucedo said. She said saturated fat and cholesterol can be limited by eating more fish, turkey and chicken. She also said that red meat does not have to be excluded from one's diet, but the method of preparation should be grilling, baking, broiling, roasting and boiling rather than frying and sautéing.

Adding more fiber to your diet will also help to keep your heart healthy. Ms. Saucedo recommends eating 25-30 grams of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and legumes each day. She advises that if you are not currently eating a great deal of fiber, you should increase your intake gradually and drink plenty of fluids.

The AHA recommends physical activity to prevent heart disease. If you are new to exercise, the AHA recommends seeing a physician before you start any exercise program. The association suggests that you begin exercise slowly and build your endurance up to at least 30 minutes of activity four of five days a week. Ms. Saucedo said that physical activity helps manage blood pressure and cholesterol levels and also helps with weight maintenance and stress relief.

Many sources recommend that you find a fitness activity that you enjoy, whether it be biking, swimming, running or any other physical activity, because if you enjoy it, you'll be more likely to stick with it. Getting in more physical activity can be as easy as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking far away and walking rather than circling for a close parking spot. If at any time you have difficulty breathing, experience chest pains or shortness of breathe, you should stop right away and consult a physician.

The National Safety Council also advises avoiding preventable risk factors such as stress, smoking and high blood pressure as a means of protecting yourself from heart disease.

For more information about changing your diet or fitness programs to benefit and support a healthy heart and prevent heart disease, visit the Health and Wellness Center.