Maintain a Healthy Diet and Heart in the Kitchen

Have you received a heart disease diagnosis, or a loved one’s? Or would you like more information about keeping up a diet that is heart-healthy?

Cardiovascular disease, which still ranks as the nation’s leading cause of death for both men and women, is something that UConn Health wants to help you and your family prevent. This includes heart attacks and strokes.

According to UConn Health registered dietitian Allison Mitchell, “February may be Heart Month, but focusing on healthy cooking and good nutrition is important every month.”

However, what precisely is heart-healthy cooking and eating?

The UConn Health expert team strongly advises you to limit your intake of red meats, excess sodium, added sugars, and saturated fats—all of which are frequently found in processed foods—and to eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, and seeds. Lean proteins, including plant-based proteins, should also be consumed in moderation. It has been demonstrated that some diets, including the DASH diet, the Mediterranean diet, and the plant-based diet, are good for heart health.

Additionally, engaging in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, like brisk walking or cycling, can enhance sleep quality, encourage positive weight changes, reduce your risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases, and enhance your general quality of life and sense of wellbeing.

Following basic lifestyle modifications, UConn Health cardiologists also want to make sure you are aware of your family’s history of heart disease and your body’s annual cardiovascular health metrics, which should be kept within a healthy range to avoid high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, all of which can raise your risk of heart disease.

Dr. John Glenn Tiu, head of the Preventive Cardiology Program at the Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn Health, argues that “we all need to be proactive with our health and try to follow heart healthy diets such as the Mediterranean diet or a more plant-based diet.”

Kalet Garcia, the current executive chef at UConn Health, concurs wholeheartedly.

“We need to give our bodies the correct food to fuel it to have energy and remain heart healthy. Eating healthy makes you feel good and fuels your body properly,” says Garcia who often cooks with lentils which are cholesterol-free, and recommends whole grains, lots of vegetables, and fish which he considers a real heart healthy winning food choice.

Experts concur that eating a heart-healthy diet significantly reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular and other chronic illnesses.

Tiu emphasizes, “Most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented with dietary modifications, regular exercise, and upholding a healthy weight.” The burden of cardiovascular disease in our nation and on you can be decreased by adopting these three fundamental lifestyle choices.

According to Tiu, “the bottom line is that eating heart-healthy and exercising daily makes you feel good and reduces your chances of developing heart disease and other chronic diseases as well,” regardless of whether you have heart disease, are at high risk for cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke, or even consider yourself a very healthy individual.

“Eating heart-healthy is also good for your immune system and gut health,” Mitchell continues.