The stats regarding women and heart health are shocking. Heart disease is the number one killer of women. While some cardiac events are not eased by lifestyle reforms, the risks of many cardiovascular ailments can be significantly reduced by changes in diet and exercise. We asked Mary Atkinson, director of Wellness at Tucson Medical Center and a dietitian by training and practice, what her heart healthy eating tips are:
Fill your plates with color:
Eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables has been shown to reduce your risk for certain diseases.
- Green colored fruits and vegetables such as kiwi, broccoli and tomatillos, are linked with lower LDL Cholesterol and blood pressure, as are red colored fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, beets, cranberries and pomegranates.
- Blue and purple fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, cabbage and eggplant, in addition to their LDL Cholesterol lowering effects, are shown to help improve joint health.
- Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables also have similar virtues.
Looking to lower the amount of salt and fat in your diet? Here are some easy changes that can help:
- Fill up on naturally fat free/low fat items like fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, whole grains
- Use meats as a small ingredient of meal instead of main part
- Cook meats by baking, broiling, roasting instead of frying/sautéing
- Trim fat off meat
- Lose the salt shaker
- Avoid canned/boxed foods
- Choose condiments carefully
- Limit salty meats
- Eat at home
- Rule of thumb- fresher is better!
Balance healthy eating habits with physical activity
Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of developing certain diseases. Take a sensible approach to managing your weight. Balance healthy eating habits with physical activity and avoid starving yourself or going on diets that severely restrict nutrients. Any diet that restricts entire food groups is also restricting the important nutrients provided by those foods. Eat according to internal hunger and satiety cues rather than external factors such as time of day. Focus on increasing your intake of fresh fruits & vegetables, whole grains, and non-fat dairy products, while decreasing your intake of salt, sugar and fat (most specifically saturated and trans fats).