February may be the shortest month of the year but it is an especially good time to recognize the importance of making lifestyle changes related to heart health. Is it true that you are what you eat? When it comes to heart health, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Eating the right way is not about dieting, which is really a temporary change in your eating habits to lose a few pounds; it is about making better choices every day so that they become second nature.
As I was pulling together resources for this column I came across recommendations from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the Mayo Clinic web sites. I also reviewed the chapter about heart health in the Complete Food and Nutrition Guide book I have on my shelf. All of the sources agree that cardiovascular disease – including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure – is the number one killer of women and men in the United States. Yet, all of the sources agree there are things you can do to control a number of the risk factors of heart disease.
A healthful eating pattern and lifestyle from the start are your best approaches for staying healthy and preventing disease, or at least slowing its course. Most health problems do not start with a single event in your life. Instead they are a combination of factors. Some you cannot control, such as your family history, gender, or age; but many you can. Today I would like to focus on the lifestyle choices you have control over.
We know that eating certain foods can increase our heart disease risk. Fried food choices and sugary snacks are choices that elevate cholesterol levels and blood glucose levels; both important risk factors with heart disease. How much you eat is as important as what you eat. Overloading your plate, and eating until you feel stuffed can lead to eating more calories, fat and cholesterol than you should. Of course the portions served in restaurants are often more than anyone needs.
Strive to eat more low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Those foods have the added bonus of high fiber which may help give you a fuller feeling. Then you will be less likely to load up on high calorie, refined, processed or fast foods.
Donna Krug is the Family & Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Barton County. You may reach her at (620)793-1910 or firstname.lastname@example.org