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Heart Health

Pay Attention to Your Heart Health.

By Gloria Romano-Barrera.

A lot can be done through nutrition to help reduce risk factors that contribute to the high prevalence of heart disease among Latinos. The American Heart Association estimates that if Americans ate the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables every day, nearly 40,000 deaths would be prevented each year from cardiovascular diseases, stroke and diabetes.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends following a healthy eating pattern across your entire lifespan. “All food and beverage choices matter and it is never too early to adopt a healthy eating pattern – good habits that will help you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight and reduce the risk of chronic disease,” shares Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, registered dietitian and Aguacates Frescos – Saborea Uno Hoy spokesperson.

We sat down with Dr. Melendez-Klinger to learn more about the silent killer.

How can you avoid heart disease?

Here are a few simple and natural tips that can help safe your life and/or the lives of your loved ones

1. Know your lipid levels

Since high cholesterol and high blood pressure symptoms can go undetected for a long time, it is important to check them frequently, especially if you have a family history of heart disease.
Once a year, request a lipid profile from your health care provider to make sure your cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglycerides are within normal range.

2. Build heart healthy habits

This is key! Not only for helping to keep your heart healthy, but also for building a vibrant lifestyle. Here are some heart-healthy habits your family can start implementing today:
• Eat more meals together at home.
• Be active as a family – go for a bike ride and walk the dog together.
• Take active vacations – hiking, bike rides, skiing, etc. I treasure the moments we spend together as a family building memories.
• Make sure you are diligent about your yearly medical checkups as early detection of health issues can save your life! Start as early as possible and never stop them. Search for a medical team that suits your needs and cultural values.

What’s new in heart disease prevention?

Fresh avocados are in the news for their heart health benefits! In a recent study, researchers explored how eating avocado at breakfast may help improve blood circulation, vascular function, blood sugar levels and good cholesterol levels, all key markers of heart health.

Fresh avocados are a heart healthy fruit with naturally good fats. They are a great substitute for foods high in bad fats and do not raise cholesterol levels. They’re also sodium-, cholesterol- and sugar-free and can be combined with other nutrient dense foods for a heart healthy meal. A serving of fresh avocado (1/3 of a medium avocado) contributes nearly 20 vitamins and minerals such as fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamin C to name a few.

Is it ever too late to make changes to reduce risk for heart disease?

Start a conversation today with a medical professional to assess your health and risk factors. Come up with a plan that includes baby steps, small shifts to healthier, nutrient-dense foods and beverages across all food groups, to help make it easier to accomplish and maintain your goals.

What dietary changes should one make to reduce heart disease risk?

Limit calories from saturated (bad) fats
• Not all dietary fats are created equal. It is important to know the differences and how to choose the better-for-you options. Avoid eating calories from saturated “bad” fats as they can cause cardiovascular disease whereas unsaturated “good” fats have heart-healthy benefits.
• Avocados are a heart-healthy whole food source of naturally good fats, a good source of fiber and free of cholesterol, sodium and sugar.
• Diets rich in healthy foods containing fiber, such as some vegetables and fruits, may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Healthy avocados are a good source of fiber.

Any advice on eating healthier?

Get creative in the kitchen. Changing eating patterns can be tough. One way to start is simply adding one more cup of colorful fruits and vegetables to your daily diet.
Consider starting your day off strong with a heart healthy breakfast, as it will help set the tone for the rest of the day. Eating heart healthy does not have to be boring and tasteless. Working with ingredients like fresh avocados for example, offers great nutrition along with great taste.

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