Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS Family & Community Health Sciences Educator Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County
Helping your arteries to stay supple is the result of eating healthfully and getting enough exercise on a regular basis. Following a healthy lifestyle and controlling your blood pressure, keeping your blood sugar under control and body weight and BMI in a normal range helps the arteries stay supple and reduces your risk for heart attack and stroke. For optimal heart health, the American Heart Association recommends these “Life's 6 Simple Steps”:
- Lose weight if you are overweight by eating healthy foods each day and getting enough daily aerobic activity.
- Reduce your blood sugar to under 100mg/dl for fasting blood sugar. Elevated blood sugar can damage your arteries over time.
- Eat healthy: plenty of vegetables and fruit daily and also whole grains, non-fat or 1% dairy products, fish, poultry, lean meat, legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. Limit fatty red meats, processed meats like bologna and hot dogs, and sugar-laden beverages and foods. Limit desserts that are high in fats and sugar.
- Be physically active daily by engaging in 150 minutes of moderately intense activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensive physical activity or a combination of the above two types each week.
- Manage your blood pressure often. Optimal pressure is 120/80 mmHg. If you are 140/90 mmHg or higher, you need to visit your local healthcare provider for tips on lowering it. Try reading food labels to reduce the salt in the products you buy. Also reduce the amount of processed foods you buy and limit fast food intake. If overweight, reduce your weight by eating smaller portions and exercising more. Eat healthy by eating more foods prepared from scratch and eliminating snacks that are salty.
- Control your cholesterol by eating less saturated fat and fried foods. Eliminate fast foods, processed foods and desserts such as cakes, cookies, donuts, and full-fat ice cream. Select healthier versions of desserts, eat small portions, and eat them “once in a blue moon”. Fasting blood cholesterol should be under 200mg/dl.
Regardless of your age, following a healthy lifestyle including the above tips will help you to reduce your risk for heart disease. These six small steps will help you feel better and live longer.