New Heart Data “Scary & Disturbing”
Not meeting heart health criteria? Unfortunately, the chances are pretty good that you aren’t. Recent findings from the American Heart Association characterize the extent to which we are taking care of our hearts in pretty ugly terms. Following the presentation of the latest data at an annual meeting of the American Heart Association, an AHA spokesperson called the country’s success at meeting goals for heart health – goals that will save our lives – both scary and disturbing.
The AHA outlines seven steps to heart health (here from WebMD), and following most of these steps – the benchmark is six or seven – has shown in studies to decrease the risk of dying by 56%. These guidelines break it down into steps that help you get to know your digits – things like BMI, blood sugar and cholesterol – and get them into alignment for your heart’s sake. If you think you might be a grim statistic, now is not the time to be ashamed. Be motivated. Take a moment to get heavy on Life’s Simple Steps toward increasing your chances of living a longer, healthier life.
One the AHA’s seven steps toward protecting our heart is meeting requirements of a healthy diet. This important heart healthy step is broken down into these five components to make “healthy diet” a little less vague and more achievable:
- Eat more than 4 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables a day.
- Have oily fish such as salmon, trout, and herring at least twice a week.
- Eat sweets sparingly.
- Have three or more servings of whole grains a day.
- Eat fewer than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day.
The AHA recommendations include meeting four of five of these keys to fulfill healthy diet requirements.
Simple principles for some pretty serious stuff. But we know simple isn’t always easy. If you feel like you’ve got to start from scratch when it comes to your heart, seven steps can seem like a lot. But remember, there is no reason not to start with one: the AHA reminds us that for every step we take, we’ve decreased our risk of dying by 18%.
Canadian food guidelines have been published, and Canada isn’t off the hook when it comes to getting their fruits and veggies. Recommendations for the amount of fruits and vegetables that Canadians should consume come in at 7-10 for adults. It’s in alignment with American guidelines, which represents a departure from the previous 5-A-Day campaigns of the past.
Winter is the perfect time to keep fruit and vegetable servings in mind – even with great opportunities in frozen, it’s the time of year that presents the most challenges when it comes to recommended servings. It seems that when the ground is frozen, the produce that comes from it just isn’t on our mind like it is in the summer. But it’s a mind set that’s easy to change; winter presents plenty of options. As the Canadian recommendations remind us, a single serving is one half cup of fresh, frozen, or canned fruit or vegetables, or one half cup of 100% juice. A cup of raw leafy vegetables or salad counts as a single serving, as does a single piece of fruit.
If you’re from the States, you can take a lesson from those just slightly North, offered up by Canadian Red Seal chef Gordon Desormeaux – that’s Chef Dez to you.
Chef Dez has some helpful advice about how to achieve the recommended servings. Here’s a great one: Get it in your cart. He suggests buying the recommended serving amounts for each member of your family for the number of days you are shopping for. For example, a family of four will need 84 servings of fruit and vegetables combined, for the next three days, based on an average of seven servings each. He suggests buying them before proceeding to the other departments and aisles, and building meals based on those initial selections. Keep items like bulk frozen fruits (think wild blueberries) on your shopping list that can be used whenever you need them.
Here’s a sampling of some other F&V tips we love from the Great White North to slip in your back pocket. Thanks Chef Dez.
- Serve every piece of chicken or fish on a bed of sautéed spinach leaves.
- Have fresh lettuce, tomato, and onions on hand at all times to give an instant Mediterranean flair to your sandwiches.
- Buy something completely new to your family at least once per month.
Take Off! You can consult the Canada Food Guide for more information, no matter where you hang your hat.
Shake Baby Shake – For Your Heart!
So you’ve decided the risk of dying from heart disease is not one you are willing to take. You’ve decided to attack these seven steps from the AHA with a vengeance. You know your blood pressure numbers, you’ve quit smoking, you’re getting your exercise, and now you’re focused on maintaining a healthy diet.
Start by getting your servings. There are loads of ways to integrate the F and the V into your life. Here’s one we just heard about especially for the tech savvy that can curb your instinct for grabbing a “bad” snack when a better one will do – just shake it! JuggleFit is an app for iPhone and iPad created to help people beat holiday weight gain and start eating better by focusing on the array of possible snacks your can enjoy when cravings hit.
Here are the basics: shake your phone, and it turns into a virtual slot machine which eventually lands on one of 200 snacks or “mini-meals” that use three basic ingredients. All focus on the simple and the mostly healthy, whether you choose something sweet or something savory. Shake it up to find Greek yogurt, wheat germ and blueberries, or maybe avocado, lemon and garlic (recipes and calorie counts are included). It’s worth a try – JuggleFit is free now through December 12, and surrounding yourself with options that motivate you can start the snowball rolling toward reducing your chances of dying from heart disease. Simple as that.