Health & Spirit

Nutrition News: Lowering Your Risk for Heart Disease

Charlyn Fargo on

My mother suffered from heart disease most of her life, and eventually the disease took her life. We went through stents, heart surgery, two pacemakers, replacement valves -- the best that medical care could give her. Could a change in her diet have made a difference?

I read with interest new research from the American Heart Association that finds doing three things could help save 94 million lives worldwide from premature deaths caused by cardiovascular disease. Those three things include lowering high blood pressure, eliminating artificial trans fats from our diets and reducing sodium intake -- all doable, and another reason to commit to eating healthier.

Lowered blood pressure and lowered sodium consumption can be accomplished together. Steps to lower your blood pressure include losing weight if you're overweight, increasing physical activity, reducing sodium intake and increasing potassium intake.

To cut your sodium, think beyond the saltshaker. Table salt only accounts for about 25% of the sodium in our diets. The rest comes from processed foods and foods we eat in restaurants (where we can't control the salt). Try purchasing no-salt-added canned foods (especially for combination foods like chili). You can also rinse canned foods to reduce their sodium by nearly 50%. Buy fresh rather than processed foods; things in a box are usually high in sodium. Watch out for canned soups and pasta sauces, as well as ketchup and barbecue sauces. Also reduce the amount of processed meats you eat on a weekly basis, such as bacon, sausage, pepperoni and lunchmeats. Other foods high in sodium include soy sauce, chips, pickles, olives and some popcorn.

The Dietary Guidelines recommend 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day (about the amount in a teaspoon of salt), but the average American consumes 3,400 milligrams per day.

Since 2006, food companies have been required to list the amount of trans fat in foods on labels. When food manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil (hydrogenation), the oil becomes harder and "trans." The process increases the shelf life of foods. Try to eat fewer foods with margarine, vegetable shortening, (think cookies and pies) as well as deep-fried chips, fast foods and commercially baked goods.

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Q and A

Q: What are good snacks for someone who has diabetes?

A: Pair a protein with a carbohydrate with fiber. Examples include a whole-wheat bagel thin with peanut butter, peanut butter with apple slices or celery sticks, string cheese with whole-grain crackers or low-fat cottage cheese with fruit. Other healthy snacks include lower-sugar fat-free Greek yogurt or hummus with fresh vegetables.



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