Health Education: Heart Health

Learn more about Heart Health at the American Heart Association website.

Cardiovascular Diseases

The cardiovascular system is made up of the heart and blood vessels. Cardiovascular disease (CVD), as defined by the American Heart Association, includes coronary heart disease (coronary artery disease, ischemic heart disease), stroke, high blood pressure (hypertension), and rheumatic heart disease. Approximately 70 million US adults have one or more form(s) of cardiovascular disease.

Each year in the U.S., cardiovascular diseases top the list of most serious health problems. Studies show that nearly everyone can become heart healthy by following a healthful diet and participating in an appropriate exercise program, eliminating tobacco products and a routine health care plan. Most important is early detection and early treatment.

Cardiac Diagnostic Tests

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG) – This test records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms and detects heart muscle damage.
  • Stress EKG – This test is given while a patient walks on a treadmill or pedals a stationary bike to show the heart activity during exercise. Breathing and blood pressure rates are also monitored. A stress test can detect coronary artery disease, or determine safe levels of exercise following heart surgery.
  • Echocardiogram – A noninvasive test that uses sound waves to produce a study of the motion of the heart muscle and valves. The echo sound waves create an image on the monitor as an ultrasound probe is passed over the heart.
  • Holter Monitor – This is a small, portable, battery-powered machine used by a patient used to record the EKG over a period of time, usually 24 hours.

To choose low-fat products, ask yourself:

  • Is fat a major ingredient? Read food labels. Go easy on products that list any ingredient high in saturated fat.
  • Is there more than one type of fat in the product?
  • Is the serving size appropriate? When you are figuring out the fat content in a food, make sure you use a serving size close to what you would really eat which could be more than the label says.

Eating Right for a Healthier Heart

Eating fewer high-fat, high cholesterol foods and watching calories are important steps to a healthier diet and healthier heart.

Guidelines for a Healthy Diet

  • With your doctor, determine the number of calories you need each day to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Eat fewer high fat foods
  • Keep fat intake to less than 30% of your total daily calories
  • Replace some saturated fat with unsaturated fat (limit saturated fat to 8-10% of total daily calories)
  • Lower cholesterol intake to less than 300mg per day
  • Choose foods high in starch and fiber
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation

Foods to Avoid:

  • Meats, fish – marbled beef, pork, bacon, sausage, duck, goose, skin and fat of turkey and chicken, processed meats such as bologna and salami, hot dogs and fast food hamburgers, organ meats (kidneys, liver), canned fish packed in oil.
  • Eggs – Limit egg yolks to two per week.
  • Fruits – coconuts
  • Vegetables – Avoid avocados. Starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, lima beans, dried peas) may be used ONLY if substitutes for a serving of bread or cereal. (Baked potato skin, however is desirable for its fiber content.)
  • Beans – Commercial baked beans with sugar and/or pork added.
  • Nuts – Avoid nuts. Limit peanuts and walnuts to one teaspoonful per day.
  • Bread, Grains – Any baked goods with shortening and/or sugar. Commercial mixes with dried eggs and whole milk. Avoid sweet rolls, doughnuts, breakfast pastries and sweetened packaged cereals (the added sugar converts readily to triglycerides).
  • Milk products – Whole milk, cream, ice cream, whole milk puddings, yogurt or cheeses, non-dairy cream substitutes.
  • Fats, Oils – Butter, lard, animal fats, bacon drippings, gravies, cream sauces, as well as palm and coconut oils. All these are high in saturated fats. Examine labels on “cholesterol-free” products for “hydrogenated fats”.
  • Desserts, snacks – Fried snack foods like potato chips, chocolate, candies in general, jams, jellies, syrups, whole-milk puddings, ice cream and milk sherbets, hydrogenated peanut butter.
  • Beverages – Sugared fruit juices and soft drinks, cocoa made with whole milk and/or sugar. When using alcohol (1oz liquor, 5oz beer, or 1 1/2oz dry table wine per serving). One serving must be substituted for 1 bread or cereal serving. Limit alcohol to 2 servings/day.

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