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Home Chef - Healthy Heart

Maintaining Heart Wellness

A heart wellness program means more than dragging out your old running shoes and changing from ice cream to vegetables. Too many times life catches up with us. You may have been a runner or volleyball player before you were married and had kids but now, with the added stress of work and family life, exercise has taken a back burner.

Something may have triggered your desire to start an exercise program for heart wellness Ė it could have been an article, a friend who had a heart attack or a recent diagnosis of a chronic disease. What ever the reason there are steps to take before you begin.

Your first step should be a medical examination with your doctor. Only your doctor can determine if you already have a degree of heart disease or coronary artery blockage that will kill you within weeks of beginning a vigorous exercise program. Depending upon your history, your health issues and your family history he will do specific tests to look for a coronary artery blockage. This preventative screening may just save your life.

Cardiovascular disease will kill 950,000 Americans every year but as many as 2/3 are preventable. Preventing heart disease with diet and exercise is your next step to a healthier you. A heart healthy lifestyle consists of 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, plenty of water, limited caffeine and alcohol and at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous amounts of exercise each day.

Heart wellness begins with dietary changes. There are several easy and quick changes that can make a big difference in the long run. First change to olive oil. You can use light extra virgin olive oil when you donít want the heavy flavor of olive oil or a heavier version when you are looking for the extra flavor (like in whole wheat pasta). Olive oil is cold pressed and not heat-treated which makes a difference in the way your body processes the oil.

Next using the broiler or baking for your foods instead of sauteing or frying. Frying and sautťing adds extra fats and oils to the foods that you donít need and only clog your arteries. If you like cheese make it hard cheese like Parmesan or Romano. The harder the cheese the less fat is in it. Velveeta and softer cheese are higher in fat and processing, which adds to your risk of heart disease.

What is important with your dietary and exercise changes are that they should be consistent. Eating foods rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy products will help to protect your heart. Including fish, legumes and other low fat types of proteins will also help to reduce your risk.

After including certain foods you must also limit others such as saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fats. All of these fats will increase your risk of heart disease and raise your blood cholesterol. Major sources of these fats are beef, butter, cheeses, milk, coconut and palm oils as well as deep fat fried foods, baked products and packaged snack foods.

A heart wellness program also means getting 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise 5 days each week. You arenít training for the local triathlon or the Olympics Ė you are getting your heart rate elevated and your breathing deeper for 30 minutes each day. You can use a trampoline in the house, an exercise ball, walking, jogging, jump rope or sports such as basketball, soccer, tennis or racquet ball. You donít have to do the same thing each day. Vary your activities and keep them interesting.

Again, the intent isnít to exercise for one week and then stop but to make life changes that will improve your chances of living a long and healthy life. This is true for dietary changes as well. Preventing heart disease with diet and exercise is a commitment to long-term changes that will improve your heart wellness and decrease your risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attack.


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