Love Your Heart: Tips for Cardiovascular Health

By Claire Harvin


According to the American Heart Association, heart disease and stroke are the #1 cause of death and disability for all Americans — heart disease is responsible for an average 1,690 deaths each year in just the Midlands.

However, more than 80 percent of risk factors for heart disease and stoke are preventable through a healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet and lifestyle are the best and easiest ways to fight cardiovascular disease, and by making simple steps and improving your overall pattern of choices, you can create long-term health benefits for yourself.

Here are some tips to help you make cognitive choices for a healthy heart:


Make better food choices, making sure to include a variety of nutritious foods from different food groups. Nutrient-rich foods have minerals, protein, whole grains and other nutrients but are lower in calories to help you control your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure.

  • Include a fruit and/or vegetable at every meal and snack.
  • Eat a variety of fresh, frozen and canned vegetables and fruits without high-calorie sauces or added salt and sugars.
  • Replacing high-calorie foods with fruits and vegetables can improve your health and weight.
  • Try to eat 8-10 servings, typically ½ – 1 cup, of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Increase your fiber intake.
  • Replace white breads, sugary cereals, refined pastas or rice with whole-grain versions, which are rich in fiber.
  • Fiber is also found in the peels of fruits and vegetables.
  • Aim for skinless poultry and fish
  • Prepare them in healthy ways, without added saturated and trans
  • Eat a variety of fish at least twice a week, especially fish containing omega-3 fatty acids (for example, salmon, trout and herring).
  • If you choose to eat meat, look for the leanest cuts available and also prepare them in healthy ways.
  • Limit saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Replace these with the better fats, like monounsaturated fats (olive, canola, peanut, safflower and sesame oils) and polyunsaturated fats (soybean, corn and sunflower oils, as well as fatty fish).
  • If you need to lower your blood cholesterol, reduce saturated fat to no more than 5 to 6 percent of total calories. For someone eating 2,000 calories a day, that’s about 13 grams of saturated fat.
  • Avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
  • Choose foods with less sodium and prepare foods with little or no salt.
  • To lower blood pressure, aim to eat no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day.
  • Reducing your daily intake to 1,500 mg is desirable because it can lower blood pressure even further. If you can’t meet these goals right now, even reducing sodium intake by 1,000 mg per day can benefit blood pressure.
  • Eat less of nutrient poor foods
  • You could use your daily allotment of calories on a few high-calorie foods and beverages, but you probably wouldn’t get the nutrients your body needs to be healthy.
  • Limit foods and beverages high in calories but low in nutrients.
  • Read Nutrition Facts labels carefully — the Nutrition Facts panel tells you the amount of healthy and unhealthy nutrients in a food or beverage.

Use up at least as many calories as you take in to maintain a healthy weight and help your overall health

  • This requires knowing how many calories you should be consuming, depending on your age, height, lifestyle and gender.
  • Don’t intake more than you use up if you don’t want to gain weight
  • Know your portion sizes and use portion control in all meals.

Prioritize regular physical activity — this can help you maintain your weight, keep off weight that you lose and help you reach physical and cardiovascular fitness, as well as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

  • Match your amount and intensity of physical activity to your daily calories consumed
  • Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity – or an equal combination of both – each week:
  • At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least 5 days per week, for a total of 150 minutes


  • At least 25 minutes of vigorous activity at least 3 days per week, for a total of 75 minutes


  • Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.
Choose a healthy lifestyle, not just in your diet but also your decisions.


·      If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.

·      Don’t smoke tobacco and avoid secondhand smoke

Inspired to make an effort to eat for your heart health? Here’s a Heart-Healthy Shopping List to help you achieve your goal:

Beverages and Treats

  • Coffee
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Green Tea
  • Red Wine (4 oz)

Breads, Grains, and Legumes

  • Dark Beans, such as kidney or black beans
  • Whole-grain breakfast cereals, like oatmeal
  • Whole grains, such as brown or wild rice, barley, and bulgur
  • Whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta
  • 100% whole-wheat bread

Dairy Products

  • Cheese (3 grams of fat or less per serving)
  • Fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
  • Fat-free or low-fat soymilk with calcium
  • Fat-free or low-fat yogurt (choose options with less added sugar)

Fats and Oils

  • Light mayonnaise
  • Margarine and spreads with no trans fats
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Salad dressings that are oil-based instead of creamy
  • Vegetable oil (canola, olive, peanut, or sesame)


  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Berries: Blueberries, Cranberries, Strawberries, or Raspberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Orange
  • Papaya
  • Pear

Nuts and Seeds

  • Almonds
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Walnuts


  • Beef, at least 93% lean
  • Eggs and egg substitutes
  • Pork, unprocessed
  • Tofu
  • Seafood (high in omega-3), such as Salmon, Tuna or Trout


  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Green Beans
  • Kale
  • Red, yellow and orange veggies, such as Acorn Squash, Carrots, Red Peppers and Sweet Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes

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