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HAWC offers tips, advice for American Heart Month

  • Published
  • By Sheila Rupp
  • Nucleus
According to the American Heart Association, one in three American adults has one or more types of cardiovascular diseases.

Consequently, Health and Wellness Centers across the Air Force are focusing prevention and education efforts on the heart in conjunction with February being American Heart Month.

Morgan Saucedo, a registered dietician at the Health and Wellness Center on Kirtland, said there are some easy tips for changing one's diet to "heart healthy." Ms. Saucedo said that by limiting the saturated fat and cholesterol in meals, people avoid raising their low density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol. LDL is known as "bad" cholesterol, which can build up on the inner walls of arteries and eventually it will clog the arteries. These blockages can cause heart attacks and strokes.

Cholesterol intake should be limited to no more than 300 milligrams each day, Ms. Saucedo said. People can limit their saturated fat and cholesterol intake by eating more fish, turkey and chicken. Ms. Saucedo added that people need not exclude red meat from their diet. However, they should grill, bake, broil, roast or boil red meat rather than fry or sauté it.

The addition of more fiber to a diet will also help keep the heart healthy. Ms. Saucedo recommends eating 25-30 grams of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans or nuts each day. She advises people who currently are not getting enough fiber to increase their intake gradually and drink plenty of fluids.

The American Heart Association also recommends physical activity to prevent heart disease. For people new to exercise, the association recommends seeing a physician before starting any exercise program. The association suggests that people begin exercising slowly and build their endurance up to at least 30 minutes of activity four of five days a week. Ms. Saucedo said that physical activity helps manage blood pressure and cholesterol levels and also helps with weight maintenance and stress relief.

Routine activities also can help. For example, people can take the stairs instead of the elevator or park far away and walk rather than circle for a close parking spot. However, should anyone experience chest pains or shortness of breathe, they should stop right away and consult a physician.

The National Safety Council also advises avoiding preventable risk factors such as stress, smoking and high blood pressure as a means of protection against heart disease.