Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
Taking Small Steps to Reach Your Ultimate Heart Health
Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in America. Its casualties have inspired our nation to dedicate February as American Heart Month. Heart month spurs the promotion of new health products, awareness campaigns, and ideas on endless ways to improve the health of one of your most vital organs. It is as simple as: eat better, exercise more, stop smoking, stop drinking, stop stressing, cut red meat, add red wine, decrease your cholesterol, increase your green leafy vegetables, get more sleep, have less family history… yeah. In the words of my 5-year-old, “easy peasy lemon squeezy,” right?
Porter Hills Home Care nurses understand that if you want someone to take action to improve their health, it is extremely beneficial to break the process into small “bite-size” pieces. Pick one thing and focus on it until it’s mastered and then move on to your next goal while continuing to revisit the previous concepts until you have built a strong foundation.
In keeping with the concept of bite-size pieces, the focus for today is sodium intake (pun intended). Eating too much sodium increases your risk of high blood pressure. In turn, high blood pressure can play a major role in heart disease. Almost 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure and more than half of them don’t have it under control. Did you know 90% of Americans (including our children) eat too much sodium every day? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends we consume 2,300 mg per day. Can you guess what we are actually consuming on a daily basis? A whopping 3,400 mg! It’s not as simple as cutting out table salt or cooking with an alternative. Restaurant foods account for 25% of our sodium intake and the foods from our grocery lists account for 65%. The top ten sources of sodium in the diet are; breads, lunch meats, pizza, poultry (even raw chicken is often injected with a sodium solution), soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, meat dishes, and snacks. Sodium is hidden everywhere. Even foods that seem healthy, like cottage cheese and turkey breast lunch meat, are chalked full of sodium. So what can be done? There are ways you can cut down on the sodium.
1. Read your labels: Not all brands are created equal. For example, cottage cheese can be very high in sodium depending on the brand. Also look for low/no sodium options when shopping. Reduced sodium items have been gaining popularity and you can often find alternatives; soups and canned vegetables are great examples. Look for all types of sodium in the ingredients, the most common form is sodium chloride, but sodium can come in many forms.
2. Rinse your canned foods: Rinsing can remove excess sodium before serving.
3. Check the menu: Ask your server what foods are prepared without sodium or if they have any low salt options.
4. Cook from scratch (this from the busy mom who considers pancakes both a breakfast and a dinner food): When cooking, substitute salt with spices or salt free alternatives. Avoid “prepared/processed” foods whenever possible; for example, commercially prepared spaghetti sauce can contain more than 900 mg per cup!
5. Choose fresh: Go for fresh fruits/veggies. If you choose frozen, choose those that are “fresh frozen” and do not have added spices/sauces.
6. Cut it out: Don’t add salt to recipes whenever possible, most recipes don’t need it and neither do you!
Although it is important to highlight Heart Health it cannot be confined to just 28 days a year. It’s a continual process. Start small, but start somewhere. And don’t stop until it is mastered!
If you currently have a heart condition, Porter Hills Home Care offers a special cardiac care program called HeartBeats. Our goal is to help cardiac patients reach their best health in spite of their heart condition(s). We hope to achieve this goal by providing patients with the skills necessary to manage their condition at home and by keeping them out of the hospital. For more information call 616-949-5140.