In honor of heart health month, Clinical Nutritionist and SiriusXM Dr. Radio host, Samantha Heller joined me to share tips on preventing cardiovascular disease which is the leading cause of death among women.
Candace Rose: With more than 42 million women living with some form of cardiovascular disease, what can we do to prevent it?
Samantha Heller: "There are so many things we can do to prevent cardiovascular disease. In fact 80% of cardiovascular disease is preventable with lifestyle changes, so what you eat, whether you exercise or not have a huge impact on the health of your heart and the quality of your life."
Candace Rose: What are the numbers we need to know?
Samantha Heller: "Well, you want to know your cholesterol numbers. You want to know your LDL, your HDL, your triglycerides- that's the fat floating in your blood, your blood pressure. Have your doctor sit down and explain those numbers to you so you understand where your risks lie. You may not be at high risk for cardiovascular disease genetically or at a certain time in your life, but you want to know that. And then what you want to do is segway from him or her to your registered dietitian to help you create and craft a healthy individualized diet. Not diet like temporary, but lifestyle of food and including healthy snacks that have healthy fat in them like almonds. Almonds have healthy monounsaturated fat, they have no cholesterol by the way, and they have the highest level of vitamin E of any other tree nut and one of the things we like for snacking frankly is chocolate. I love being able to tell people they can eat some chocolate covered almonds. We have almond butter; you can have an almond butter and apple sandwich which I love. Almond butter goes great with actually any fruit or jam, so you can celebrate also National Almond day on February 16th. It's a great excuse to go and buy some almonds but you don't really need an excuse.
And for quick on the go easy meals because we get a little crazy in our lives and don't always have time to cook or chop, you can have frozen food like this Healthy Choice Options Beef and Broccoli that has extra vegetables, and I'm a huge fan of vegetables; Chicken Parmigiana with a little dessert. They're 350 calories but they are heart healthy also because they're low in bad saturated fat and low in cholesterol and actually the only frozen meal that meet USDA guidelines for healthy, so you want to have these in your kitchen for the times you don't have time to prepare a whole meal. Stock your pantry with healthy foods, have whole grains there like whole wheat pasta, and brown rice, and quinoa. Have cans of chopped tomatoes (the low sodium kind) and have the frozen foods in your freezer so you can whip together a healthy meal at any time."
Candace Rose: What are the ingredients we need to look for when it comes to frozen foods?
Samantha Heller: "Well, you want to check for the saturated fat and the cholesterol, definitely. And you want them to be relatively low; cholesterol levels you don't want more than about 300 milligrams in your whole day, if you're healthy. If you have risk factors for cardiovascular disease the level is 200 milligrams. So you don't have to do a lot of math in your head, just be aware in general of the healthy foods you're eating. You really can't go wrong with options like the frozen meals like these that are low in calories and saturated fat, and also fruits and vegetables they're definitely low in that."
Candace Rose: How important is exercise in preventing heart disease?
Samantha Heller: "It's critical. Exercise is critical for preventing heart disease. It keeps your heart healthy, it helps generate new capillaries that increase blood flow to your heart. It helps reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. It helps lower your blood pressure, manage your weight, lower your risk of diabetes and improve your brain health. So exercise is just a win-win-win-win situation."
Candace Rose: Do you have any tips for beginners on how they can develop an exercise plan they can stick with?
Samantha Heller: "You know, just get up and go for a walk. That's the simplest way to start. It's free, you already know how to do it; just pop on a pair of sneakers. If you're going outside dress appropriately for whatever weather you're going to encounter. Take a walk. And if you can schedule that into your day most days of the week (even start out with five or ten minutes) your body is going to get so happy and you're going to start feeling great."
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you'd like to share?
Samantha Heller: "Sure. If you want more information on almonds you can go to AlmondBoard.com or on Healthy Choice meals you can look at those labels online at HealthyChoice.com. I have a website called HellerHealth.com which features my book 'Get Smart', so lots of great resources for people. It's really important to get your heart healthy and take good care of it."
Be sure to follow Samantha on Twitter as well!