What one change could help make a huge difference when it comes to your heart? Cook more. When you cook at home you are in control of what ingredients you use, and it helps you minimize the amount of overly processed foods that you would otherwise be eating when dining out. 70 percent of the sodium that Americans consume comes from overly processed food or meals that are eaten out.
Diets high in sodium are directly linked to high blood pressure and poor cardiovascular health. When you cook meals at home, you not only control how much salt is added but also refined carbs, sugar and saturated fat – all of which are also linked to a greater risk of heart disease.
Where to Start
Knowing where to start can feel overwhelming when you need to take steps to lower your blood pressure or improve your cardiovascular health. Your first thought may be to jump all in and change everything but the key to making changes that will be long-lasting is making them gradually and deliberately. This is much more effective that trying to change the entire way you eat and live all at once.
One change you can make this week, is to commit to making one more meal a week for yourself than you normally would. Look for some recipes that include heart healthy foods like lean proteins (fish, chicken, pork), vegetables and whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat pasta). If you need recipe ideas, visit our blog, the American Heart Association website, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website for heart healthy recipes.
Another quick and easy change to make is swapping out those daily potato chips at lunch for heart healthy nuts like almonds, walnuts or pecans. Nuts still give you that crunchy food you may crave but are much more nutrient rich. If nuts aren’t your thing, try swapping out the chips for some fresh vegetables like carrots, bell pepper strips or broccoli. Again, you still get that crunch you may be after, but you also get plenty of vitamins and minerals that are heart healthy.
Want more ideas on how to shop, prepare and cook at home for your heart? Join us for one of our free nutrition seminars this year at the Central Resource Library lead by Johnson County Department of Health dieticians and community health workers. Check out our calendar for dates and times. You can join us for one or all four sessions.
Other Small Changes You Can Make
90 percent of heart disease cases could be prevented through not only a healthier diet but also regular exercise and not smoking.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels. For adults, the Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling, every week.
- Not smoking or using other forms of tobacco. Tobacco use greatly increases your risk for heart disease. So, if you don’t use tobacco now, don’t start. If you do, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Call the Kansas Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) or go to KSQuit.org for help.
Making just a few changes to keep your heart healthy can add not only years to your life but years that are more enjoyable, free from heart disease and other chronic conditions. Live well today to live better tomorrow!