Following a healthy lifestyle by eating balanced nutritious meals, engaging in daily physical activities, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption may help reduce the risk factors of heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American men and women causing about 647,000 deaths per year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Heart disease can be prevented or delayed by controlling several underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated blood cholesterol levels, and weight gain.

Several diet-related chronic diseases including heart disease can be prevented or managed by following a healthy eating pattern—one that is nutritionally adequate with appropriate calories (Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020). Sumathi Venkatesh, a Health Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service shares a few tips to eat smart for a heart healthy life:

• Fruits and vegetables are essential components of a healthy diet. However, most people do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. A person consuming 2000 calories should include about 2½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruits every day. You may include them in a variety of forms—fresh, canned, dried or frozen.

• Choose low-fat dairy products. They provide the same nutrients as the regular kind but with less fat and calories.

• Avoid trans fats and limit saturated fats to less than 10 percent of your daily calories. Replace butter with spreads made of monounsaturated fats (canola, olive, peanut, and sunflower) or polyunsaturated fats (corn, sunflower, and soybean). Mono- and polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are ideal for daily cooking.

• Limit refined grains by making half of your grains made up of whole grains. Whole grains are good sources of dietary fiber and many nutrients.

• Include at least 8 ounces of seafood per week. Including seafood that are high in omega 3 fatty acids may protect your heart by reducing inflammation.

• Reduce sodium intake to less than 2300 mg per day. However, the ideal limit for most adults and those who are at risk for heart disease is no more than 1500 mg per day. Excess dietary sodium increases blood volume and may increase the risk for high blood pressure.

• Avoid excess calories from sugar sweetened beverages. The calories from added sugars should be less than 10% of your daily calories.

• Lastly, practicing portion control is key. Excess calories may lead to weight gain.

For more information on heart health, contact the Aransas County Extension Office 361-790-0103.

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