Welcome to our guest blogger, Emily Tills, (Registered Dietitian and Owner of Nourished with Emily)

You wear your red on Go Red for Women’s Day, you know that heart disease is a leading cause of death for women and you want to truly be healthy and reduce your risk but feel uncertain as to what you can do to have a healthy heart. February is American Heart Month and now is the perfect time to start making small changes to improve heart health and your overall health, without making it complicated.

Heart Disease has year after year been deemed the leading cause of death for women. Although genetics can increase our risk of developing Heart Disease, we have the power to make smaller changes to improve our heart health as well as reduce our overall risk. The changes are small but they can make a big impact on your overall health. 

First, what is Heart Disease? 

Heart Disease describes a variety of conditions that can affect how the heart functions. These can range from Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, Coronary Artery Disease, which usually involves blockages in the hearts vital blood vessels, heart arrhythmias, irregular heartbeats, and congenital issues. Many of these conditions are related to our lifestyle-related choices and genetics can increase the risk.

Nutrition for Heart Disease 

Two major diets are usually recommended when someone is at risk for Heart Disease or may have the started with conditions like Hypertension and High Cholesterol. The DASH Diet as well as The Mediterranean Diet are the two most popular ones. The DASH Diet- Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, recommends reducing the overall sodium intake in the diet by not salting food when eating or cooking, reducing the intake of highly processed foods, and reducing alcohol and caffeine beverage intake as they increase the blood pressure level, and choosing low fat and lean options like low-fat dairy and lean cuts of meat.

The Mediterranean Diet recommends higher intakes of heart-healthy fats, through nuts and oils, seafood, and lean cuts of meat along with fruits and vegetables plus whole grains to aid in overall heart health, high intakes of antioxidants through fruits, vegetables, and whole grains plus aid in the good cholesterol, HDL, be within normal range or higher which can protect the heart. 

Hydration is also vitally important for overall heart health and reducing disease risk. When sodium intakes are elevated and not enough water is being had, blood pressure is elevated as well as other issues can arise like Urinary Tract Infections and altered labs. Drinking enough water is a great way to aid in healthy blood pressure. 

Exercise for Heart Health

Exercise is an essential way you can strengthen your heart and it doesn’t need to involve a gym membership either. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity each week to help reduce disease risk and improve heart health and function. Unfortunately, only 25% of Americans meet the recommendation for exercise (CDC.gov). To meet the recommendation, you don’t have to go out on a 2-hour run to hit the goal. This can look like (5) 30-minute bouts a week of walking, dancing, biking, running or a workout class. If you can’t budget 30 minutes at a time for a workout, try breaking up the movement throughout the day into small, short bursts like a 5-minute walk around your building at work a few times a day to reach your goals. You can move any way you like, experiment with different classes, sports, and types to find what moves you. 

How a Registered Dietitian Can Help You

If you’re feeling lost with how to build your health and make sustainable changes, and you want to make sure you can reach your goals, working with a Registered Dietitian can be a great way to take a personalized approach. Registered Dietitians use evidenced-based research on health, nutrition and diseases and translate it to you and your life. Registered Dietitians can make tailored recommendations around appropriate fiber intake for your goals which has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. They can also help you learn how to build a healthy plate in any situation to get the nutrition you need to make a change. 

February is National Heart Month and there is no better time to start making changes for your health and reduce disease risk. Lasting change starts with one small step; pick one goal you want to work on and start there. Not long after will you start to see progress and feel better.

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By |2024-02-12T14:57:56+00:00February 12th, 2024|Healthy Living|Comments Off on Guest Blog: Advice from a Registered Dietitian | How Can Nutrition and Lifestyle Changes Improve Heart Health?

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About the Author:

Colleen Schutt has held various positions at Onondaga PT over the years and you may have seen her in any of our 8 locations. Colleen is currently our Director of Marketing. She is passionate about spreading the word to the community that Onondaga Physical Therapy is the best choice when you need to return to living, working and playing even better when an injury has set you back.
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