Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States? In response, the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association recently released stricter high blood pressure (hypertension) guidelines, narrowing the diagnosis from ³140/90 mmHg to ³120/80 mmHg. These numbers represent the amount of pressure exerted against the blood vessel walls when the heart contracts and relaxes. Over time this elevated pressure damages the heart, blood vessels, and increases risk for heart attack and stroke. The stricter guideline means more people will be diagnosed with hypertension, but instead of a push for pharmacologic remedies, the American Heart Association recommends improving diet for long-term heart health. February is American Heart Month, the national campaign to tackle heart disease. Is there a better time to love your heart?
A heart-healthy diet is attainable for everyone, with more DOs than do NOTs. For instance…
-Do eat more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, such as oatmeal or whole wheat bread.
-Do replace solid fats with unsaturated liquid fats or unsalted nuts and seeds.
-Do eat more fish and plant-based proteins.
-Try not to eat excessively salty or processed foods. This may mean eating fewer meals and snacks on the go.
For me, eating heart–healthy means running out the door with portable food in hand to prevent vending machine and fast food temptations. Preparing larger amounts and portioning them into portable containers for one-pot meals is my secret! Try
– Sprinkling sliced pears, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, and gorgonzola atop a bed of lettuce or quinoa; drizzle with olive oil and vinegar.
– Mixing grilled veggies, chicken, brown rice, and a splash of seasoning or lite soy sauce.
– Tossing together oats, diced pears, dried cranberries, a dash of cinnamon or brown sugar (if you like), and low-fat milk. Refrigerate overnight for refreshing overnight oats, pop in the microwave for a comforting breakfast or lunch, or check out this One Pot oatmeal recipe!
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