Throughout the month of February, we will be sharing important heart health tips from the Arnot Health Heart and Vascular Institute, an advanced support team that provides high-quality, compassionate care in state-of-the-art facilities. This week, we’re talking about the important transition to a healthier lifestyle through better nutrition.
Eating is such a huge part of life. Sharing meals is a way to bring family and friends together and it’s a way to step back from the daily grind. The choices we make about the things we eat are rooted in everything from taste and experience to mere convenience and simplicity. That’s why, when we find ourselves stuck in unhealthy eating habits, it’s very hard to change.
“We train ourselves to like certain foods,” said Maureen Tuite, Clinical Director and Nurse Practitioner at the Arnot Health Heart and Vascular Institute. “In order to make nutritional changes, it takes a real focus on overall health and lifestyle.”
When deciding to eat healthier, it’s best to think in terms of small changes and realistic goals. It’s also good to build knowledge and awareness around nutrition. For example, keeping a food journal is a very effective way of understanding some bad habits and seeing opportunities for change. This can make it easier to know where the total in-take of calories comes from and how to structure an improvement plan. Another way to build awareness is by reading food labels at the grocery store. You should avoid high levels of sodium or cholesterol in order to improve your overall heart health.
Here are some additional tips on making small changes toward healthier eating habits:
- know your numbers; checking your cholesterol and blood pressure often can allow you to regulate your diet accordingly before extreme measures are required
- always choose real over processed foods; the amount of sodium and unnatural ingredients in processed foods can deteriorate your health over time
- understand the difference between fat and sugar; many foods may claim to be low in fat, but high sugar content can easily contribute to undesired weight gain and even diabetes
- cut down on overall calories; one of the easiest ways to take in fewer calories is by substituting water for those sugary sodas and energy drinks
If you’re serious about changing your lifestyle and improving your heart health, the American Heart Association has several resources for getting started and staying on track. It’s never easy to make a true lifestyle change, but your heart will be forever grateful for your effort and determination.
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