Steamboat Springs As we move into the month of February, thoughts of Cupid and Valentine's Day come to mind. For the staff at Yampa Valley Medical Center's Cardiac Rehabilitation program, the focus is on hearts of a different kind.
February is designated as Heart Health Month by the American Heart Association a time to share the most current information about heart disease, especially its prevention. Cardiovascular disease is the health problem that affects more Americans than any other. According to AHA statistics, cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States. More than 14 million people have coronary artery disease.
A major contributor to coronary artery disease is a diet high in fat. This results in elevated blood lipid (fat) levels that deposit fatty plaques on the coronary artery walls. These deposits can ultimately cause blockage, depriving the heart of oxygen that results in a heart attack.
Though the hazards of eating a high-fat diet are well documented and publicized, Americans continue to consume at record levels. Why? Perhaps it is that fat adds flavor to food or that high-fat foods are almost synonymous with "fast food" that is so readily available. It's no surprise that the hamburger adds more fat to the average American's diet than any other food.
The AHA recommends that less than 30 percent of the total calories eaten each day should be derived from fat. That's less than 50 to 60 grams for the recommended average daily caloric consumption. Saturated fats those from animal sources should be less than 10 percent. This category includes meats and dairy products.
So how do individuals put these guidelines into practice on a daily basis? Start simply by eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking their juices. Most are naturally low in fat and high in vitamins and minerals.
Enjoy low-fat dairy products and lean meats such as chicken, turkey and lean cuts of beef.
Before you begin your day with 12 grams of fat by munching a doughnut or a muffin, choose a bagel or English muffin and save almost 10 grams of fat.
You can top it off with low-fat cream cheese and still save 5 grams of fat. By using mustard instead of mayonnaise on your sandwich, you can save 10 grams more.
Next, begin reading product labels at the market. Though this initially may seem confusing and time-consuming, the savings in fat and overall calories can be enormous. The labeling process has been standardized so contents are listed in the same order. This allows easy comparison from product to product. A quick glance will reveal the amount of fat and the daily recommendation. If it is greater than 30 percent, you can probably find a healthier choice.
Though no foods are "forbidden," let smaller portion sizes be your guide along with decreased eating frequency.
If you wish to become an educated diner, you can take advantage of healthy choices offered by many restaurants. Your favorite recipes can be modified so that they are healthier yet still flavorful and satisfying. If you really want to satisfy your heart's desire, make Heart Health Month the beginning of a new, healthier you.
Susan Cowan, MN, RN, is coordinator of Yampa Valley Medical Center's Cardiac Rehab program.