Heart Health

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the world.

Unfortunately, Kern’s rate of heart disease is 49 percent higher than the state average and approximately 984 of our residents die from heart disease each year. An estimated $451,674,837 in hospital charges due to heart disease occur in Kern County annually.

The good news is heart disease is highly preventable by following a healthy lifestyle. There are simple steps you can take to ensure your own heart health. While there are other factors that contribute to heart disease, the types of food you eat play an integral role in your heart health. The two components of your diet you will want to focus on limiting are sodium (salt) and unhealthy fats (saturated fats). Sodium can be found in most of the foods you enjoy daily so it is important to be aware of your consumption.

The average person should aim to consume no more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day. Following this guideline will help keep your blood pressure at a reasonable rate and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Saturated fat is another component of our diet that we must be aware of when eating out or preparing meals at home. Saturated fat is found prevalently in:

• Red meats

• Cheeses

• Creams

• Whole milk

• Butter

• Chicken skin

• Pastries

• Fried foods

Foods high in saturated fat raise bad cholesterol levels, which can lead to clogged arteries and blood flow problems. Try to limit these foods in your diet and look to consume more unsaturated fat sources instead. Some sources of unsaturated fat, which help reduce the risk of heart disease, include:

• Avocado

• Fatty fish

• Eggs

• Nuts

• Olive Oil

• Seeds

• Nut butters

Consuming saturated fats in moderation and choosing unsaturated fats instead will greatly reduce risks associated with heart disease.

Other recommendations for reducing the risk of heart disease include:

• Fresh, frozen vegetables

• Whole grains and fiber-rich foods

• Fish

• Fat-free milk

• Vegetable oils

• Less sugary drinks

• Less processed, frozen entrees

• Alcohol moderation

• Tobacco cessation

In addition to nutrition needs, exercise remains a very important component of heart health as well. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking or light bicycling, or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity, like jogging or hiking, per week. These types of exercises help to strengthen the heart and lose excess weight, both of which are important for heart health.

Ensure you are on the path to having a healthy heart with physical activity and good nutrition. Make an appointment to speak to your medical provider to develop the best plan for your heart health and visit American Heart Association at www.heart.org for more information.

Aaron Stonelake is the nutritionist for the Kern County Public Health Services Department. For more information on health resources and programs, go to www.kernpublichealth.com.

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