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From the column Health and Wellness

health-wellness-03-14-1Make “heart health” a family affair! Lifestyle changes recommended for you as an adult are even more important for your children. By working together to turn heart health into a family project, you can make the process fun and more successful for all. You’ll also be setting a valuable example for children that they can apply through their entire lives. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Slow Down on Fast Food

  • Say “No!” to super-size meals.
  • Choose fruit or a side salad over fattening French fries.
  • Drink water, diet soda (although do be aware of sodium content), milk or juice.

Move Around More

  • Make family exercise a priority.
  • Engage in activities that involve movement!
  • Park at the back of the parking lot when shopping (as long as you feel safe).
  • Take the stairs instead of an elevator.

Celebrate Successes

  • Have each family member set health goals.
  • Track everyone’s progress.
  • Reward goal achievers.

Eat your way to good health. Watch those food labels! Here are things to watch for to ensure food choices that are good for your heart.

Sodium

Reduce your salt intake. It’s in almost all processed foods. The average person should consume no more than 2,400 mg of sodium a day, or between 600 and 800 mg per meal.

Fats

Fats can be confusing, because there are so many different types, and while some fats increase your risk of heart disease, some can actually lower it.

Saturated Fats: avoid these, because they raise LDL (bad cholesterol). They are found in fatty cuts of meat, butter, lard, cream, whole milk, and tropical oils (coconut, palm, and palm kernel).

Monounsaturated Fats: when substituted for saturated and trans fats, these actually help lower LDL. They are found in olive and canola oil, most nuts, peanut butter, avocados and olives. However, even these types of fats should be consumed in moderation.

Polyunsaturated Fats: When substituted for saturated and trans fats, these also help to lower LDL. You will find them in safflower, sunflower, sesame, corn and soybean oils, soybeans, sesame seeds, walnuts, ground flaxseed and fish.

Omega-3 Fats: These fats are essential and have been shown to lower triglycerides at high doses and prevent irregular heartbeats. Omega-3 fats appear to be particularly beneficial to heart attack patients. They are found in soybeans, walnuts, ground flaxseed and fish.

Trans Fat: Not good! Trans fat can increase bad cholesterol, decrease good cholesterol, elevate triglycerides and cause “stickier” platelets which can lead to clogged arteries. Trans fat is found in such foods as stick margarine, vegetable shortening, fast food French fries, and most snack foods, and baked goods. Many food manufacturers are beginning to remove trans fat from their products. Look for packages that say “no trans fat”.

Fiber

Dietary fiber is a complex carbohydrate your body can neither digest nor absorb. Even though it’s not considered a nutrient, fiber is still very important to good health. Fiber-rich foods can help you manage your weight. They are usually low in calories and fat, they bulk up your stomach, and they make you feel fuller after a meal. Good sources of fiber include: oats and oat-based cereals; dried beans and peas; fruits, such as apples, pears, prunes and citrus; and vegetables, including cabbage, sweet potatoes and carrots.

Give your heart a healthy break by watching what you eat. It’s not rocket science, and you don’t have to starve yourself. Stay healthy!

Rev. Charlotte Evans is a registered nurse and elder in Greensboro, North Carolina. She serves as director for Nazarene Parish Nursing (NPN). NPN focuses on care of the spirit and promotes holistic health and prevention of illness as part of the local church ministry team.

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