Try this for a Healthy Heart

Diet plays a significant role in heart health, and eating well can protect your heart!

Poor eating habits can wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system and your body. One of the best things you can do for a healthy heart is to limit the amount of sodium in your diet. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is an eating plan that helps with that.

What is DASH?

Eating too much sodium like table salt can lead to hypertension. This condition is defined by elevated blood pressure where systolic blood pressure goes over 130 mm Hg or diastolic pressure exceeds 80 mm. High blood pressure puts a strain on your arteries and blood vessels. Over time the added stress can lead to cardiovascular events such as a heart attack or stroke.

The DASH eating plan is aimed at lowering blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol (another risk factor for cardiovascular issues). DASH was developed to help with hypertension, but for some patients it may also aid in weight loss as it promotes healthier dietary patterns*.

Here are the nutritional changes that DASH recommends:

1. Increase intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

DASH promotes eating a diet filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fruits and vegetables are lower in calories than many meats and oils. They contain a host of beneficial vitamins and minerals. Whole grains, like brown rice, whole-wheat bread and oatmeal, contain many more vitamins and minerals than refined grain options.

All of the additions that DASH promotes are nutrient-dense and loaded with fiber. Fiber-rich foods (like our V1 SMOOTHIE and V2 GREENS) help lower cholesterol. They also make you feel full faster, which can help you to consume fewer calories throughout the day. Sustained over time, a decrease in calories can result in weight loss.

2. Eat fat-free or low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils

A calcium-rich diet can decrease blood pressure by helping to tighten and relax blood vessels. This is why DASH supports consuming fat-free or low-fat dairy. Dairy is also an excellent source of calcium! If you prefer non-dairy options, spinach, collard greens, and kale are excellent sources.

In addition to calcium, omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in promoting a healthy heart. Omega-3s are believed to decrease cholesterol and blood pressure. DASH recommends increasing intake of foods like vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, fish and leafy greens, which all contain Omega-3s. Also, opting for foods high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats are an excellent option for vascular health.

3. Decrease intake of saturated fats

In addition to helping with vascular function, low-fat and fat-free dairy contains lesser amounts of saturated fat. Saturated fat intake is directly related to elevated LDL cholesterol. [Remember, LDL is the “bad” cholesterol that contributes to heart disease.] LDL can gradually build up in our bloodstream depending on what we eat. Foods like full-fat dairy and high-fat meats contribute to saturated fat intake and elevated cholesterol levels.

4. Limit intake of sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages

Sweets and sugary drinks contribute to unnecessary, empty calories in our diets. They also contribute greatly to weight gain!! Weight management is one reason health and wellness professionals discourage overconsumption of sugar. DASH also encourages us to limit our sugar intake. Research suggests that excess sugar intake contributes to elevated cholesterol levels. While the taste may be satisfying, it’s best to consume sugar in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends that women limit sugar intake to 6 teaspoons per day. Men should limit consumption to 9 teaspoons per day.

Additional Considerations

High sodium intake is another major contributor to heart disease. Consuming too much salt in any form can increase blood pressure, putting considerable strain on your heart and blood vessels. The DASH eating plan recommends limiting sodium intake to 2300 mg per day-about one teaspoon. To lower blood pressure even further, limit sodium to 1500 mg daily. This is a pretty substantial decrease considering most people consume over 3,400 mg per day.

Give DASH a Try

The DASH eating plan is useful for lowering blood pressure and promoting a healthy heart. Its dietary recommendations – decreasing sugar intake, increasing fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

DASH is intended for lifelong use, and since it does not prohibit any foods entirely, it’s pretty sustainable. Just think, an eating style that improves nutritional habits and heart health without medication. This is our Happy Place and what we wish for everyone who walks though out door at Vfinity!

Happy Heart Health!

*sources: Mayo Clinic and American Heart Association

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