Northeastern University Dining Services Blog

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Three Easy Steps to Keeping Your Heart Healthy

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 | 9:38 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments


With assistance from Northeastern graduate student Melissa Pryputniewicz

The heart's main function is to pump blood throughout your body. Blood brings oxygen and nutrients to your organs and carries waste products like carbon dioxide to be excreted from the body. When you think about it, the heart is a pretty important organ - and it is one that many young people take for granted.

It is very easy to think that you don’t have to start worrying about your heart health until your 40s, but the truth is that many behaviors you are engaging in now have an impact on your heart health later in life.

So, what puts you at risk for developing heart disease?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, risk factors include:
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being physically inactive
  • Having a poor diet
  • Excessive alcohol use
As you can see from the list, there are many risk factors that can be controlled through your lifestyle choices. So what are three things that you can start doing now to keep your heart healthy?

Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet can benefit your heart in many ways. The most important things you can do to improve your diet are quite simple:
  • Be sure to include lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet. They are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber all of which help your heart.
  • Include fiber in your daily diet. Some evidence has suggested that fiber can help lower cholesterol, which decreases your risk for developing heart disease.
  • Watch your salt intake. Too much sodium can cause increased blood pressure, which puts extra stress on your heart. One of the easiest ways to cut back on your salt intake is to stop adding salt from the shaker to your meals. You can also eat less frozen and pre-packaged foods; these types of foods often contain a lot of sodium.
  • Eat less high fat foods. Saturated and trans fatty acids have been know to raise LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. To decrease your saturated fat intake, eat less animal products, especially fatty parts of beef, pork, lamb and chicken; you can also decrease your intake of cheese and whole fat milk products, along with other fats like butter and cream.
Be Physically Active
Engaging in moderate-intensity physical activities on most days of the week can lower your risk for developing heart disease. Regular physical activity can also decrease your blood pressure. The American Heart Association suggests being physically active for 30 minutes per day, five days per week. If you don't have 30 minutes to fit a full workout in, try taking a brisk 10-minute walk three times per day. Sometimes it is easier to break the large chunk of time into smaller ones. Other simple ways to increase your physical activity include taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking further away from your building on campus. These little changes all add up throughout the day.

Quit Smoking
Smoking increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. If you don't smoke currently, don't start. If you do smoke and need help quitting, you can look into the Ready to Quit program offered by Northeastern University's Health and Counseling Services.

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Melissa Pryputniewicz is a graduate student of nutritionist Christine Clark in the MS in Applied Nutrition program through the College of Professional Studies at Northeastern University.

Nutritionist Christine Clark works with Dining Services to provide you with tips and techniques to stay healthy during your time at Northeastern. If you have any further questions about this topic or are looking for more information about any other nutrition or diet topic, such as food allergies or sports nutrition, please contact her at christine.clark2@compass-usa.com.

References:
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Heart Disease Facts." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Heart Disease. http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm Published October 16, 2012.
  2. American Heart Association. "American Heart Association Guidelines for Physical Activity." American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/StartWalking/American-Heart-Association-Guidelines-for-Physical-Activity_UCM_307976_Article.jsp Published November 15, 2012.

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