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Help your family stay heart healthy

Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN • Feb 5, 2020 at 4:30 PM

While a scary statistic, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in America. While we often think of disease as something to worry about later, when it comes to atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in the arteries, this accumulation of fatty deposits can start to occur at age 2! Therefore, it is important that we instill heart-healthy habits in our kids at an early age. Celebrate February as American Heart Month by focusing on heart-healthy tips for your family.

FRUITS AND VEGGIES — MORE MATTERS!

One big, yet simple way to boost the nutrient value of your meals is to make sure to include lots and lots of fruits and vegetables. Not only are they low in calories overall, but different colors of fruits and veggies provide different antioxidants and also fiber, which helps to support immune and digestive health. The nutrients in produce, especially potassium, help to keep blood pressure in check as well, which is an important controllable risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Shoot for at least 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables each day to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need to help you feel great and prevent disease.

FOCUS ON FATS

Not all fats affect your heart health the same way. While up to 35% of your overall calorie intake for the day can come from fats, less than 10% of that amount should be from saturated or solid fats. Saturated fats are more likely to clog your arteries and increase your risk for heart disease. This type of fat is found in butter, meats, especially processed meats like bacon or sausage, full-fat dairy products like whole milk and cheese, as well as snack and dessert foods like chips and cookies. While you can still enjoy these foods in moderation, replacing some of them with unsaturated fats from olive oil, avocado, and nuts and seeds, can be beneficial to decrease “bad” cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of disease. The Omega-3’s in fish and seafood, as well as walnuts and flaxseed, are anti-inflammatory and can also support heart health.

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