Tag Archives: heart disease prevention

Show Your Heart Some Love by Eating Smart and Moving More

Valentines Day isn’t the only holiday in February. It’s also American Heart Month, which helps raise awareness of heart disease and prevention. Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, we should all be interested in healthy lifestyle choices we can make to protect our hearts. Thankfully, showing your heart some love means eating smart, moving more, and slimming down, the same lifestyle choices that help to protect against diabetes and breast cancer.

Eat Heart Smart

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We Heart MyPlate!

What does a Heart-Healthy diet look like? MyPlate! Nourish your heart with a balanced diet that features plenty of:

The DASH Diet in particular has been shown to be especially good for your heart. The DASH Diet is very similar to MyPlate’s recommendations with an even greater emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plant-based proteins, nuts, and seeds, while limiting sodium, sweets, and animal protein foods.

Move More to Get Your Heart Pumping

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Show your heart some love with physical activity!

Being active helps keep your heart in shape. It’s called cardio for a reason! Any amount of activity is better than none, but getting 30 minutes a day is recommended for good health. If you’re just starting out with moving more, build up slowly until you hit the goal. If you are a regular exerciser, getting up to 90 minutes a day has even more health benefits.

In addition to structured exercise, sitting less throughout the day is helpful for keeping your heart healthy, too. Think of ways to take quick activity breaks, like a walk around the office, a few quick squats, or some light stretching, for every hour or two of sitting. Find ways to walk more when running errands, like parking further away or taking the stairs. All of these small activities add up to a big benefit to our health.

Slim Down to Give Your Heart a Break

Carrying around extra weight is hard on your heart, making it work harder than it should to pump blood around the body. Being at a healthy weight is best, but losing even 5-7% of your bodyweight (just 9-12 pounds for a 175 pound person) is good for your heart health.

If you’re making progress in eating smart and moving more, you’ll likely be slimming down, too. If not, try keeping a food diary and using MyPlate’s Supertracker to see where your diet and physical activity could use a bit more improving.

This Valentines Day, be kind to your heart. Dark chocolate is a great option for a sweet treat that fits into a balanced diet. Plan an active date with your sweetheart, like a winter hike or trip to the roller rink for an old-school couples skate. Get creative to find ways to live heart healthy, this month and throughout the year.

Cut Down on Added Sugar to Reduce Your Risk for Heart Disease

Last week, we mentioned that eating too much sugar increases your risk for heart disease. Today, let’s talk about how to cut down on sugar intake and reduce your risk! Some sugars, such as sugar found in fruit and milk, are naturally occurring and found in foods that are good for us. We’re going to focus on how to cut back on added sugar, the type that is linked to poor health.

What is added sugar and where can you find it?

Added sugar is exactly what it sounds like: sugar that is added to a food. This includes sugar that you use in a recipe or add to a food at the table (for example, sugar you add to your oatmeal or coffee). It also includes sugar in processed and prepared foods and beverages.

You can figure out if a food contains added sugar by reading the ingredient list on the food label. Be on the look out for these names for “hidden” sugar in processed foods and beverages:

  • high fructose corn syrup
  • malt syrup
  • cane sugar
  • brown sugar
  • caramel
  • sucrose
  • turbinado
  • honey
  • maple syrup
  • agave
  • fruit juice concentrate
  • And many more that you can find here

How much added sugar is too much?

The American Heart Association has guidelines for how much added sugar is too much. For women, the recommendation is no more than 6 teaspoons, or about 100 calories per day. For men, the recommendation is no more than 9 teaspoons, or about 150 calories per day. To put that into perspective, just one 12 ounce can of soda contains almost 10 teaspoons of sugar, or about 156 calories from added sugar. So one soda puts you over the recommended limit, not including the many other foods that contain added sugar, like desserts, candy, cereal, etc.

How can you cut down on added sugar?

Tame Your Sweet Tooth 

If you’re craving something sweet, try reaching for a piece of fruit or sugar-free gum instead of a candy bar or piece of cake. Over time, you will start to tame your taste buds and you will get used to eating less of the sweet stuff.

Sip Smarter

You wouldn't eat 40 packets of sugar, so why would you drink them? Thanks to the New York City Department of Health for creating this memorable public health campaign.

You wouldn’t eat 40 packets of sugar, so why would you drink them? Thanks to the New York City Department of Health for creating this memorable public health campaign.

Did you know that sugary drinks are the biggest source of added sugar in the American diet? Sugary drinks include soft drinks like soda or pop; fruit-flavored drinks (NOT 100% juice); sweet tea and coffee sweetened with sugar; sports drinks; energy drinks; and flavored milk like chocolate or strawberry milk. These drinks add lots of empty calories from sugar and have little nutritive value.

To cut down on sugary drinks, start small by cutting out just one drink per day. Swap your sugary drink for something non-sugary such as water flavored with slices of your favorite fruit or calorie-free drink mixes. Check this out for more ways to “rethink your drink”:

Coming up, we’ll talk about how you can cut down on added sugar in recipes you make at home. Check back to learn more!

Share with us: What’s your favorite way to sip smarter?