Nourish with NorthBay Dietitians

Nourish is a blog written each week by NorthBay Healthcare dietitians. It focuses on health and nutrition with educational information, tips and advice as well as an occasional recipe.

It's Not That Difficult to Keep Your Heart Happy

May 03, 2018

By Ximena Hurtado, BS, DTR

Heart disease has been one of the leading causes of death in the United States. One could blame the processed food in the American diet, the sedentary lifestyle many people live, or simply the lack of motivation to live a healthy lifestyle. The reality is, balance is difficult in the society we live in today. People are always on the go, they put in long work hours, do not get enough sleep, and lack time or motivation to cook a healthy meal.

So let's put this in perspective. You decide to skip workouts, skip the healthy meals and skipping self-care on multiple levels and then all of a sudden, BOOM! You come to the emergency department with radiating chest pain. You are sent straight to the catheterization lab and told that there is blockage in your heart and need a stent to be placed. Before the procedure is even completed, the doctor has placed a referral for health education on the heart healthy diet.

You roll your eyes.

The Heart Healthy diet focuses on three main objectives: low-sodium, an emphasis on healthy fats and a limit on saturated fat and low-cholesterol. When providing individuals with heart-healthy dietary guidelines, a few questions seem to be asked more often than others: "So, can I have eggs? "Can I eat deli meat?" "What about cheese?" and lastly, "Is exercising necessary?"

Let's break this down.

  1. Eggs: Eggs contain a number of healthful benefits including protein, vitamins A, D, B12. Eggs are not necessarily related to coronary artery disease, but since 1 egg yolk contains 186 mg of cholesterol, that can add up if you eat more than one. According to Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, if one is following heart healthy dietary recommendations limiting 200 mg of cholesterol is okay. Keeping in mind to limit other foods that are high in cholesterol like high fat meats, red meats, whole fat cheeses and full fat dairy.
  2. Deli Meat: Processed deli meats can contain up to 600 mg of sodium for 3 slices of meat. The daily recommended intake for sodium for an individual following the heart healthy diet is 2000 mg of sodium per day. Talk about cold cut lovers buzz kill! One always has the option of cooking fresh meats with herbs and spices, but if time is limited, stay hopeful. There are always salt-free or low sodium processed meats available at your nearest supermarket.
  3. Cheese: This can be a tricky one. Cheese is naturally high in fat and sodium. Do not fret, there are some good cheese options in the store that follow the heart-healthy dietary recommendations. For example part skim mozzarella and swiss cheese. Swiss cheese is included in the heart healthy diet and because of all the holes in it, technically you are not getting a full slice of cheese! But really, who cares? At least you don't have to eat the questionable reduced fat cheese. Read the label when looking at reduced fat cheeses as when they take out ingredients in foods they often add in some questionable other products.
  4. Exercise: The answer is, YES! According to the American Heart Association, doing aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes a day can help with weight management and cardiovascular health. Keep it realistic, 3-5 days per week. The good news is that your 30 minutes does not have to be all at once. You can break it up throughout the day. Just stay active.

So in reality it is not that difficult to keep your heart happy and healthy. Just remember to exercise, eat your fruits and vegetables and limit high fat and salty foods.

The author is a registered diet technician with NorthBay Healthcare.

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