Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight (20 percent over normal weight guidelines for your frame and height) can increase your risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other medical problems. Being obese (more than 30 percent above healthy body weight) doubles the risk for heart disease. For more information, visit the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases web site.
You can achieve a healthy weight
If you're overweight, develop a weight-reduction plan with your physician. Studies show that "fad diets" don't work consistently; controlling what you eat is only part of the challenge. To take the weight off (and keep it off), you need to make permanent lifestyle changes.
By exercising daily and eating healthy foods, you can maintain long-term weight loss. The key to daily exercise for weight management is increasing the total time you spend being active during the day to at least 30 minutes and making this a permanent part of your life.
A woman's attitude is the most important factor. To achieve long-term weight loss, you must be willing to make permanent behavioral changes.
Medical nutrition therapy
Your physician may recommend that you consult with a registered dietician (RD), who can help you develop a weight loss plan. The RD can help you follow a sensible diet and exercise regimen to achieve a healthy weight. The RD understands that these changes take time, so he or she can develop a gradual plan for changing food-intake patterns.
Medical nutrition therapy goals:
- Help you separate food and weight-related behaviors from psychological issues
- Develop an action plan for changing food-intake patterns
- Create a lifelong sensible diet and exercise program for maintaining a healthy weight
- Help you use support and referral sources to stay on track
- Provide information on specific nutritional recommendations for associated medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
HealthEast offers many wellness programs including:
HealthEast Bariatric Care also offers surgical options for treating obesity. Learn more.
Eating for a healthy heart
Did you know that a heart-healthy diet can reduce the three major risk factors for heart attack-high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity? Eating healthy foods that are low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol and high in antioxidants and fiber also will reduce the risk for stroke.
For more healthy meal planning, menus and other tips, visit the American Heart Association.
The DASH diet
Research has shown that a low-sodium diet can reduce systolic blood pressure (pressure when the heart contracts, indicated by the first, higher number in a blood-pressure reading) by as much as 11.5 mm Hg. The DASH Diet ("Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension") emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods and recommends limiting salt intake to about 1,500 mg per day.
Antioxidants and your heart
Eating foods rich in antioxidants has also been found to help protect the heart by preventing blood clots and by improving blood cholesterol levels. Antioxidants neutralize damaging free radicals, which oxidize other molecules and damage cells. They also boost immunesystem function to keep diseases at bay. Foods rich in antioxidants include citrus fruits, blueberries, broccoli, grape juice, green tea and orange juice, as well as such dark-green leafy vegetables such as cabbage, kale, arugula, beet greens, bok choy and collard greens.
Why fiber matters
Soluble fiber may lower blood cholesterol levels, and it's associated with a reduced risk for heart disease and stroke. Good sources of soluble fiber include fresh fruits, oats, legumes, and vegetables. Eating enough fiber also can help you lose weight because it makes you feel full longer, so you're less likely to overeat.
The Mediterranean diet
People living in the Mediterranean region (Italy and Greece, for example) tend to have lower cholesterol levels and lower rates of heart disease and cancer than Americans. This is mainly because of their diet.
A Mediterranean diet emphasizes grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil, compared with the typical American diet that emphasizes fatty foods and red meat. The Mediterranean diet is high in monosaturated fat and low in saturated fat, a dietary component that women should reduce to prevent heart disease.
Hispanic cooking and African-American cooking tend to include more fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar than foods from other cultures. That's partly why the heart-disease rate is higher in African-American and Hispanic women.
Heart-Healthy cooking sites
The following sites offer tips on how to start eating well to protect your heart, plus plenty of recipes and shopping tips.