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Heart Health

How we can reduce heart disease risk with eating and lifestyle choices

Healthy Eating Roundup: Behind the headlines

How do you set priorities to assure that your “healthy choices” are doing the most good for health and vitality? Nutrition headlines in perspective

A look at several studies making headlines in the last few weeks shows that the answer may not be as clear-cut as it seems.

Let’s pull them together for a look at the big picture.

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An Anti-Inflammatory Diet: What makes sense?

How many times have you seen “Top 10 Foods to Fight Inflammation”? Why is it that two months later a similar list has different foods? Did the foods first identified as “absolutely best” suddenly lose their benefits? Did research suddenly come to a whole new understanding of how to beat the chronic inflammation that’s considered a key element in development of many chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease?So many questions on healthy eating to fight inflammation

Research has been progressing in identifying how eating habits and lifestyle choices can either promote or reduce chronic inflammation. This Smart Bytes® gives an update on our understanding of inflammation, and solid tips on how to set priorities among choices you can make to quench it.

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Avoid Weight Loss Relapse: Strategic Synergy

As challenging as it is to lose weight, for many people an even more daunting problem is avoiding, or at least limiting, the weight regain that tends to follow. Metabolic adaptations may account for some weight regain, but many people find that relapse into old habits is clearly involved, too. Is there help beyond ironclad self-discipline?

Tracking your weight and targeting specific changes in eating, exercise and sitting time can both be powerful tools for weight loss. Previous Smart Bytes® posts featured interviews with Rebecca Krukowski, PhD, discussing research on frequency of weight checks and other behavior change tips for weight loss. Dr. Krukowski, a clinical psychologist on faculty at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, provides additional insights on tracking’s role in avoiding relapse in the video interview shared here.

After hearing from Dr. Krukowski, read on for my take on how new research presented an American Heart Association conference I recently attended can address the all-to-common problem of weight loss habits relapse, and help take maintaining a healthy weight from daunting to doable.

 

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Cutting Sodium: Doable Eating Habit Tweaks

Reducing the hefty sodium load that’s part of many people’s eating today can seem a confusing and daunting challenge. Average U.S. sodium intake at 3592 milligrams (mg) per day – not counting any salt added at the table — is well beyond the recommended cap of 2300-2400 mg. Reaching the target the American Heart Association identifies as “ideal” (no more than 1500 mg daily) would require major changes in all aspects of eating choices and preparation.

Salty 6 - good targets for cutting sodium

42% of U.S. sodium intake comes from the AHA “Salty 6” (NHANES 2009-2010)

However, reducing sodium is not an all-or-nothing proposition.

Instead of focusing on a target that may feel out of reach, try finding a few doable tweaks in your usual choices. Just a few swaps can add up to reduce your current daily totals by 1000 mg a day. That’s a goal that research supports to make a difference in your health. Given the high sodium levels in many foods today, the tweaks may not be as hard to accumulate as you think.

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Healthy Eating Tweaks for Lower Blood Pressure

Among people with high blood pressure, only about half have their blood pressure under good control.  Whether you have high blood pressure and hope to improve control to reduce the toll it takes on your health, or hope to delay or avoid development of high blood pressure, the good news is that changes in your eating habits can help.

Even better news: if you’re not up for a major overhaul of your diet, research has identified ways in which we can “tweak” eating habits with relatively small changes that can add up to make a difference for a healthier blood pressure and improve overall health at the same time. Tweaks that cut sodium are part of this, but let’s make sure we consider the big picture of how eating habits affect blood pressure.

What’s the big deal? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high blood pressure makes you four times more likely to die from a stroke, and three times more likely to die from heart disease.

In the United States, about 1 in 3 adults – or about 2 in 3 age 60 and older — has high blood pressure. Another 1 in 3 has prehypertension, above-normal blood pressure between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg, not high enough to classify as hypertension, but now recognized as high enough to increase risk of heart disease and stroke. Your blood pressure can be high for years without causing any symptoms, even though it is damaging your heart, blood vessels and kidneys.

Let’s consider three places you can look for ways you might tweak your current eating habits for healthy blood pressure….

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