Heart to Heart: Managing and Preventing Cardiovascular Disease

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

By: Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, RD

During February we celebrate love and friendship but it’s also a good time to celebrate a healthy heart as the National Heart Month. According to the American Heart Association, Hispanics have high risks of cardiovascular diseases due to high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. In fact, it is the leading cause of death among Hispanic women. Although there are certain factors out of our control like our family history, age or gender, there are others that we can control. Among these are: smoking cessation, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight. Following a good diet based on portion control and daily exercise we can prevent and manage these chronic diseases. To learn how, check out the following foods that benefit your heart and start making changes today.

  • Foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fats
  • High fiber foods
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables to preserve their nutrients
  • Foods rich in Omega-3 at least twice a week
  • Low-fat milk or nonfat
  • Grains and cereals rich in folic acid
  • Food or drink soy

Now, that you know what foods to buy make a habit of reading the nutritional bar on each product you buy. Use the following table from the American Heart Association to help you choose the healthiest for your heart.

Total fat: 25 to 30% of calories from fat
Saturated fat: No more than 7% of the total fat
Trans fats: Less than 1% of total fat
Cholesterol: Less than 300 mg per day (but this number drops to 200 mg per day if you have high levels of bad cholesterol [LDL] or are taking medications to lower cholesterol)
Fiber: 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day – preferably whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans
Sodium: 2,300 mg or less per day (limited salt to 1,500 mg per day if you have high blood pressure)

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

Also know that you don’t have to give up your favorite foods for a healthy diet. If you opt to choose smaller portions you can enjoy your favorites. For example, if you like fruit juices and sodas don’t drink more than 8 oz. on a day. If you like chocolate, eat a small piece of dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa. Following these simple changes in your diet and lifestyle can help you improve your heart health and prevent more serious problems. Remember, the greatest gift you can give to your loved ones in the month of love and friendship is committing to take care of your health.

Melendez-Klinger is a registered dietitian and mother of a college student and a student in the final year of high school. He is also a consultant to various companies such as Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, The National Fisheries Institute and others.

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