Richard: Love your heart & keep it healthier

Published 12:03 am Saturday, February 5, 2022

According to the American Heart Association, one of the leading causes of death in Louisiana is cardiovascular disease. Genetics, along with lifestyle choices such as dietary habits and lack of exercise, impact heart health.

Genetics may be the primary cause of heart disease, but smoking is the second leading factor. If you smoke, consider enrolling in Quit Smoking for Life cessation program. Call 985-449-4686 for more information.

While you can’t control genetics, you can make lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of heart disease. With February recognized as American Heart Month, now is the ideal time to change those habits and behaviors for a healthier you.

 

Eat Well, Feel Well

Plaque buildup in the walls of arteries that supply blood to the heart causes coronary heart disease. Lowering cholesterol helps relieve stress on the heart. Start by following dietary patterns that favor fresh over processed and plant over meat-based foods.

The American Heart Association recommends a diet that includes:

  • Variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy proteins such as lean meats, fish and seafood, legumes and nuts
  • Low-fat or non-fat dairy
  • Non-tropical oils such as olive, canola, sunflower, peanut or safflower
  • Minimally processed foods
  • Minimal sugar
  • Foods prepared with little or no salt
  • Limited alcohol intake

Several of these recommendations include superfoods popular in the Mediterranean diet. Consider including these in your daily diet:

  • Nuts—A study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted among people ages 55 to 80 with a high risk for heart disease showed those who consumed more than three one-ounce servings of nuts a week had a 39% lower mortality risk.
  • Olive oil—Monosaturated fats in olive oils, particularly virgin and extra virgin, help keep the heart healthy. Since it is calorie dense, only add a tablespoon of oil to salad dressings and sauces to prevent weight gain.
  • Whole grains—High fiber in whole grains such as brown rice, couscous, quinoa, bran, popcorn and oatmeal can lower cholesterol production.
  • Fruits—Filled with immune-supporting, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties such as vitamin C, potassium and phytochemicals, what’s not to like about fruits? Berries are uniquely beneficial to heart health.
  • Legumes—Low in fat and high in protein, folate, iron, potassium and magnesium, beans and other legumes are found to help reduce the cardiovascular risks.
  • Green tea—A spot of green tea may help turn back time and lower risks for heart disease. Research shows a link between green tea consumption and longer telomeres—which are found at the end of chromosomes and shorten as you age.
  • Spices—Too much sodium in your diet can contribute to high blood pressure, which makes your heart work harder. Replace salt with onions, garlic, herbs and spices such as cinnamon, ginger and turmeric.

Keep On Moving

Having a regular fitness routine gives you more energy and helps to improve your mental and physical health. By midlife, muscle mass and bone density start declining, your metabolism slows, and it becomes easier to put on weight especially around the abdomen. That impacts your heart.

Your mother’s advice to “get up, go outside and play” still rings true. Fresh air and movement are good for your mind, body and soul.

Research from the Mayo Clinic shows that 150 minutes of moderate activity a week is a good goal to maintain. For maximum results, combine high-intensity activities like running, playing tennis or swimming with slower-paced movement such as walking.

 

Walking at a brisk pace daily—as little as 30 minutes—can benefit your heart, brain and muscles.

Whether it’s walking, running, hiking, yoga, gardening or kayaking, the most important thing is to find something that you enjoy doing and keep moving.

Named one of the 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals in the country for delivering quality, efficient and cost-effective heart and vascular care, Thibodaux Regional Health System offers a heart and vascular care program to help patients keep their hearts healthier.

Along with advanced technology and expertise, Thibodaux Regional Heart & Vascular Center provides education, prevention and rehabilitation programs to help patients adjust their lifestyles and improve overall health and wellness.

Take care of your heart. In the event you need us, your heart is in the right place at Thibodaux Regional.

Katie Richard, MA, BSN, RN, is the education & training coordinator for Thibodaux Regional Wellness Education Center, which can be reached at 985-493-4765.