February is American Heart Month. The heart is arguably our most vital organ, pumping blood to deliver oxygen and nutrients to every cell in our bodies. A healthy heart helps us grow and thrive. On the flip side, an unhealthy heart can dramatically affect our lives. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.
Tips for Heart-Healthy Families
So how do we help our families lead heart-healthy lives?
We posed this question to Dr. Jenny Delfin, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center and one of the medical experts at Adventure to Fitness. Dr. Delfin provided a quick summary of tips for families:
1. Limit intake of food with high saturated fat and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol — this includes red meat, dairy, fried food, and fast food.
2. Include regular intake of food rich in Omega-3 — this includes fish such as salmon, trout, herring, halibut and flounder plus walnuts, soy (tofu), and spinach.
3. Daily servings of fresh fruit and vegetables — the emphasis here is on eating fresh, healthy produce whenever possible. For canned foods, Dr. Delfin recommends low-sodium vegetables and fruit packed in water or real juice. Some fruit and vegetables can be counterproductive: Canned vegetables are often high in sodium or eaten with fatty dips and dressings. Similarly, canned and frozen fruit can often be packed in heavy syrup or infused with additional sugar.
4. Choose low-fat protein — this means fish, lean meat like chicken or lean ground beef, and low-fat dairy. Beans, peas, and soy are also good options.
5. Limit sodium — almost everyone’s daily diet includes enough sodium (and generally, too much). Limiting salt on the table is only one step. Many canned or packaged foods are high in sodium so buy low-sodium products or try for more fresh products.
6. Regular exercise — for kids, this means at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous activity.
Dr. Delfin states, “Far too often, we treat diseases as opposed to prevent them. The way to prevent heart disease is to start early, by teaching children about healthy food choices, healthy portions, and regular exercise.” This infographic summarizes medical recommendations for kids.
Be Good to Your Heart on Valentine’s Day
Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, we asked Dr. Delfin for recommendations on all the candy, cookies, and cupcakes we’ll receive. Aside from sending them to her, she reminded us about the difference between snacks and treats. Snacks should be healthy food we eat during the day (like fruits and vegetables) versus the sugary items that should be reserved for special occasions.
Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone and in honor of American Heart Month, try to think about how you can use Dr. Delfin’s recommendations with your family!