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Healthy Heart Living: What Can You Do?

Jeffrey D. Wayne, M.D.
Principle Investigator

A healthy heart diet, weight control and regular exercise are three very important things you can do to promote a healthy heart and prevent diseases including heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.  I invite you to read the article below about Healthy Heart Eating. 

Part 1: Healthy Heart Eating

The food you eat is extremely important to prevent heart disease and boost heart health.  Based on research, eating a heart-healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke substantially!  You can protect yourself by being careful about what you eat, and what you don’t eat.

By understanding how your food choices impact the health of your heart, you may be able to prevent or manage heart disease, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and diabetes.  Learn which foods and methods of cooking are healthiest for your heart, and take more control of the quality and length of your life.

Improving your diet is an important step toward preventing heart disease, but you may feel unsure where to begin. Take a look at the big picture: your overall eating patterns are more important than obsessing over individual foods. No single food or supplement can make you magically healthy, so your goal can be to incorporate a variety of healthy foods cooked in healthy ways into your diet, and make these habits your new lifestyle.


Limit saturated and trans fats:

Limiting how much saturated and trans fats you eat is extremely important to reduce your lipid (cholesterol and triglyceride) levels, and lower your risk of coronary artery disease. High lipid levels can lead to a buildup of plaque in your arteries, called atherosclerosis, thereby increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.  

Some fats are better choices than others.  Monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil are healthier fats. Polyunsaturated fats, found in nuts and seeds, also are good choices for a heart-healthy diet. When used in place of saturated fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may help lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. But moderation is essential. All types of fat are high in calories.

Trans fats are unhealthy fats that form when vegetable oil hardens in a process called hydrogenation. They are often used to keep foods fresh for a long time, and for cooking in fast food restaurants.   Check the food labels of cookies, crackers and chips. Many of these snacks — even those labeled “reduced fat” — may be made with oils containing trans fats. Avoid hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats (read the ingredient labels).

Trans fats can raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels in your blood. They can also lower your HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.

Think about the following when picking margarine: Choose soft margarine (tub or liquid) over harder stick forms.  Pick margarines with liquid vegetable oil as the first ingredient. Even better, choose “light” margarines that list water as the first ingredient. These are even lower in saturated fat.

Avoid fried foods and processed foods.

You can reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet by trimming fat off your meat or choosing lean meats with less than 10 percent fat. 

You can also use low-fat substitutions when possible for a heart-healthy diet. For example, top your baked potato with salsa or low-fat yogurt rather than butter, or use low-sugar fruit spread on your toast instead of margarine. When cooking, use liquid oils like canola, olive, safflower, or sunflower, and substitute two egg whites for one whole egg in a recipe.

Not all fats are bad for your heart:

While saturated and trans fats are roadblocks to a healthy heart, unsaturated fats are essential for good health. You just have to know the difference. “Good” fats include:

Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Fatty fish like salmon, trout or herring and flaxseed, canola oil or walnuts all contain polyunsaturated fats that are vital for the body. 

Omega 6 Fatty Acids: Vegetable oils, soy nuts, and many types of seeds all contain healthy fats.

Monounsaturated fats: Almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, and butters made from these nuts, as well as avocadoes, are all great sources of “good” fat.

Eat more vegetables and fruits:

Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals; they are low in calories and rich in dietary fiber. Vegetables and fruits also contain substances found in plants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Eating more fruits and vegetables may help you eat less high-fat foods, such as meat, cheese and snack foods. 

Featuring vegetables and fruits in your diet can be easy. Keep vegetables washed and cut in your refrigerator for quick snacks. Keep fruit in a bowl in your kitchen so that you’ll remember to eat it. Choose recipes that have vegetables or fruits as the main ingredient, such as vegetable stir-fry or fresh fruit mixed into salads. 

Select whole grains:

Whole grains are very healthy for us.  They are good sources of fiber, promote heart health, and help regulate blood sugar to prevent and treat diabetes.  You can increase the amount of whole grains in a heart-healthy diet by making simple substitutions for refined grain products.

Minimize high-glycemic carbohydrate foods including potatoes, white starches (white bread, white rice, white pasta), french fries, refined breakfast cereals, soft drinks, and sugar. Eat low-glycemic carbohydrate foods including most legumes (peas, lentils, and beans), whole fruits, whole wheat, oats, bran, brown rice, barley, couscous, and whole-grain breakfast cereals. 

An easy way to add whole grains to your diet is ground flaxseed. Flaxseeds are small brown seeds that are high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your total blood cholesterol. You can grind the seeds in a coffee grinder or food processor and stir a teaspoon of them into yogurt, applesauce or hot cereal.

Choose healthy (low-fat) protein foods:

Lean meat, poultry and fish, low-fat dairy products, and egg whites or egg substitutes are some of your best sources of protein. But be careful to choose lower fat options, such as skim milk rather than whole milk and skinless chicken breasts rather than fried chicken patties. 

Fish is another good alternative to high-fat meats. And certain types of fish are heart healthy because they’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood fats called triglycerides. You’ll find the highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring. Other sources are flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans and canola oil. 

Legumes — beans, peas and lentils — also are good sources of protein and contain less fat and no cholesterol, making them good substitutes for meat. Substituting soy protein for animal protein — for example, a soy burger for a hamburger — will reduce your fat and cholesterol intake.

Reduce the salt in your food:

Eating a lot of salt can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Reducing the salt in your food is an important part of a heart-healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (about a teaspoon). 

Although reducing the amount of salt you add to food at the table or while cooking is a good first step, much of the salt you eat comes from canned or processed foods, such as soups and frozen dinners. Eating fresh foods and making your own soups and stews can reduce the amount of salt you eat. If you like the convenience of canned soups and prepared meals, look for ones with reduced sodium. 

Another way to reduce the amount of salt you eat is to choose your condiments carefully. Many condiments are available in reduced-sodium versions, and salt substitutes can add flavor to your food with less sodium.

Control your portion size:

In addition to knowing which foods to eat, you’ll also need to know how much you should eat. Overloading your plate, taking seconds and eating until you feel stuffed can lead to eating more calories, fat and cholesterol than you should. Portions served in restaurants are often more than anyone needs. Keep track of the number of servings you eat — and use proper serving sizes — to help control your portions. 

A serving size is a specific amount of food, defined by common measurements such as cups, ounces or pieces. For example, one serving of pasta is 1/2 cup, or about the size of a hockey puck. A serving of meat, fish or chicken is 2 to 3 ounces, or about the size and thickness of a deck of cards. Judging serving size is a learned skill. You may need to use measuring cups and spoons or a scale until you’re comfortable with your judgment.

More Healthy Eating Tips:

Enjoy every bite. Your motto should be dietary enhancement, not deprivation. When you enjoy what you eat, you feel more positive about life, which helps you feel better and less likely to overindulge.

Hydrate. Water is vital to life. Staying hydrated makes you feel energetic and eat less. Drink 32 to 64 ounces (one to two liters) of water daily (unless you are fluid restricted).

Limit calories.  Limit your intake of foods high in calories or low in nutrition, including foods like soft drinks and candy that contain a lot of sugar.

In Summary:

There are several diet strategies you can follow to promote healthy heart living.  Here are the basics:  limit saturated and trans fats and instead choose unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats; eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy (low-fat) protein foods; reduce salt; control portion size; limit calories; hydrate with water; and enjoy eating healthy and promoting your health!

More Healthy Heart Eating Information and Diet Plans:

Some of you may want to learn about a heart healthy way of eating and develop your own eating plan that works best for you.  Follow the basic suggestions in this article, and for more information, I’d suggest you read Your Guide to a Healthy Heart.  This is an excellent review article from the NIH about risk factors that cause heart disease and what you can do about it!

Your Guide to a Healthy Heart

Other people may thrive better with an actual healthy heart diet.  Two excellent and proven healthy heart diets are the DASH Diet and the South Beach Diet

The DASH Diet

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet, is a specially designed eating plan to help you lower your blood pressure, which is a major cause of hypertension and stroke.  Here is the link to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute on the DASH diet.

South Beach Diet

Dr. Wayne has an excellent reputation in the global research community for his clinical trials work in Sacramento and Lincoln. He has participated in many medical studies in different therapeutic areas including high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, gastro-intestinal, respiratory, and arthritis. Clinical Trials Research has two facilities in the greater Sacramento area, and serves the communities of Sacramento, South Sacramento, West Sacramento, Midtown Sacramento, Carmichael, Citrus Heights, Rancho Cordova, Orangevale, Fair Oaks, Folsom, El Dorado Hills, Cameron Park, Placerville, Shingle Springs, Rancho Murieta, Granite Bay, Roseville, Rocklin, Loomis, Lincoln, Newcastle, Auburn, North Highlands, Rio Linda, Woodland, Davis, Dixon, Lodi, and Stockton. Dr. Wayne and Clinical Trials Research are considered to be the gold standard for clinical research in the Sacramento area.