Heart health is a big deal! And not just for your parents – for UGA students too. While we celebrated American Heart Month in February, it’s important to keep a few things in mind throughout the year. So important, in fact, that President Obama issued a proclamation on January 30, 2015, aiming to raise awareness about high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke – the causes of one-third of the adult deaths in the United States.
Fortunately, the American Heart Association (AHA) provides fairly simple recommendations to promote heart health.
And the even better news is that many of these strategies are useful for promoting general health and wellness and may reduce risks of other diseases as well! Some of these suggestions include:
- Be Active. The AHA recommends aiming for 30 minutes of aerobic activity 5 days per week, combined with strength training a couple of days per week. (Note: It may be advisable to check with your health care provider before beginning a new physical activity routine.) Small changes can make a difference, even 10 minutes at a time – try just walking a longer route to your first class of the day!
- Eat a wide variety of nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (plant chemicals),which help protect the cells in our bodies. In addition, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, lean cuts of meat and poultry, fish, and vegetarian sources of protein including beans, peas and tofu, are supportive of heart health.
- Get creative with vegetables. Try adding fresh or frozen vegetables into your favorite pasta or Asian stir fry dish, or top a pizza with extra mushrooms and spinach. Keep sliced veggies and hummus in a visible location in the fridge or add them to a smoothie.
- Choose heart healthy sources of fats, which can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and promote overall heart health. In general, this means choosing mono- and polyunsaturated fats, usually found in oils such as olive, canola, peanut, sesame, and safflower, and foods such as avocadoes, nuts and seeds, nut butters, and certain types of Looking for a place to start making changes? Try having an omega-3 rich fish – salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring or trout – in the place of other protein sources for dinner one or two nights per week. Or, to reduce saturated fat and boost fiber, try adding beans or lentils in the place of beef to a soup or stew, or try a black bean burger on whole grain bun. Finally, experiment with soy protein sources. Try a stir fry made with vegetables and tofu or edamame – delish!
Looking for even more tips? The University Health Center has two registered dietitians on staff who are available to meet with UGA students, and it offers cooking classes for students to learn to make healthy, budget friendly recipes. For more information about nutrition services offered at the University Health Center, contact the Health Promotion Department online or by phone at 706-542-8690. For more information about heart health visit the American Heart Association website at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/.
Written by Brittany Bingeman, MEd, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition Counseling Coordinator at the UGA University Health Center