February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans, but we can reduce the rate of heart disease through a healthy diet and lifestyle.
For the first time, the American Heart Association has defined what it means to have ideal cardiovascular health, identifying seven health and behavior factors that impact health and quality of life. We know that even simple, small changes can make a big difference in living a better life. Known as “Life’s Simple 7,” these steps can help add years to your life (see sidebar).
The American Heart Association has a new national goal:
By 2020, to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.
As part of a healthy diet, an adult consuming 2,000 calories daily should aim for:
At least 4.5 cups a day of fruits and vegetables, at least two 3.5-ounce servings a week of fish, preferably oily fish, such as salmon, and at least three 1-ounce-equivalent servings a day of fiber. One ounce is equal to a slice of bread.
Additionally, one should consume less than 1,500 mg a day of sodium and no more than 450 calories (36 ounces) a week of sugar-sweetened beverages.
Other Dietary Measures:
Nuts, legumes and seeds: At least 4 servings a week. A serving is a small handful.
Processed meats: No more than 2 servings a week. A serving is 2-3 ounces.
Saturated fat: Less than 7 percent of total energy intake. Recommended intake is less than 15 grams of saturated fat per day. For those with heart disease the recommendation is lower.
The American Heart Association recommends that you eat a wide variety of nutritious foods daily. Remember, even simple, small changes can make a big difference in living a better life.