Take care of your heart year round

 Take care of your heart year round

Molly Westbrook, Staff Writer

February seems to be consumed by images of hearts, love, and cupid. Although Valentine’s Day may be over, this month can serve as a good reminder to take care of your heart, not just emotionally, but also physically by maintaining both a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.

Tanya Papura, an adjunct faculty member of the Nutrition and Dietetics Department, says people have a “pessimistic view” when it comes to incorporating fats in the diet. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) explains that fats are important in the diet because they help our body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E and K. But they can also be dangerous in excess, potentially leading to cardiovascular disease.

With processed, high fat, and high sodium foods becoming a daily occurrence in the diets of many college-aged students, it’s important to strive to moderate the unhealthy fats we consume. This is possible by grasping an understanding of “good” fats versus “bad” fats.

“[People need to] consume less saturated fats and shift towards eating more monounsaturated fats,” said Papura.

She explained how monounsaturated and unsaturated fats raise our HDL, also known as “good” cholesterol, levels and how saturated fats raise our LDL, “bad” cholesterol, levels.

It is recommended by the AND that adults strive to keep their saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of their diet.

LDL cholesterol is typically found in animal products and high fatty foods such as fried foods, butter and fatty red meats. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), this type of cholesterol collects in our arteries, builds plaque, and can eventually lead to heart attacks and strokes.

HDL cholesterol is typically found in fish and plant foods such as, olive oil, avocados, and nuts. The AHA explains how it helps protect against heart problems by carrying “bad” cholesterol to the liver where it can then be excreted from the body.

The AHA also recommends that adults consume less than 300 mg of cholesterol daily to help maintain normal blood cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease.

Ariel Muirhead, junior nutrition and dietetics major, said her go-to healthy fat foods are nut butters. Nuts, in general, contain unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids that fall under the “good” fat category.

Some healthy nut butters to spice up your diet could include hazelnut, cashew, and almond butters. These nut butters are a versatile way of incorporating good fat into your diet because you can put it on a range of different foods from toast to raw vegetables.

Along with eating right, exercising is also an important component of heart health. According to author and nutrition researcher, Judith E. Brown, government agencies recommend that adults get at least a half hour of physical activity that increases breathing or heart rate daily.

There is one simple equation for heart health: diet and exercise. Eating in moderation is key when it comes to diet. This means being aware of the types of food you eat and the amount of food you’re consuming.

With exercise, the key is finding something that will not only raise your heart rate, but something that you enjoy as well. This could be a variety of things such as biking, walking, fitness classes or playing a sport.