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Keep Your Daily Diet and Kitchen Heart Healthy! – UConn Today – University of Connecticut

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Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with heart disease? Or do you want to learn more about how to maintain a heart healthy diet?

UConn Health wants to help you and your family prevent cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, which remain the leading cause of death in both men and women in the U.S.

“February may be Heart Month, but focusing on healthy cooking and good nutrition is important every month,” says Registered Dietitian Allison Mitchell of UConn Health.

This February 2024 in honor of American Heart Month, UConn Health's campus is lighting-up red to raise greater awareness about the importance of preventing cardiovascular diseases (UConn Health Photo/Tina Encarnacion).
This February 2024 in honor of American Heart Month, UConn Health’s campus is lighting-up red to raise greater awareness about the importance of preventing cardiovascular diseases (UConn Health Photo/Tina Encarnacion).

But what exactly is heart healthy eating and cooking?

The team of experts at UConn Health highly recommend you consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean proteins (including plant-based proteins), nuts and seeds as well as limiting intake of red meats, and excess sodium, added sugars, and saturated fats often found in many processed foods. Diets such as the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet and a plant-based diet have all been shown to be beneficial for heart health.

Plus, performing at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or bicycling, can lower your risk of developing heart disease and other chronic diseases, improve sleep quality, promote positive weight changes, and improve overall quality of life and sense of well-being.

Also, after foundational lifestyle changes, cardiologists at UConn Health want to ensure you know your family history of heart disease along with your body’s cardiovascular health numbers annually which need to be maintained at a healthy range to prevent high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes which can increase your risk of heart disease.

“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,” says Dr. John Glenn Tiu, director, Preventive Cardiology Program at the Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn Health.

The new executive chef at UConn Health, Kalet Garcia fully agrees.

“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.

The experts all agree that eating heart healthy prevents a great deal of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases.

Tiu stresses, “80% of cardiovascular disease is preventable to a large extent with changes in diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight. These three foundational lifestyle choices are the key to reduce your and our country’s cardiovascular disease burden.”

“If you have heart disease or are at high risk for cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke, or even consider yourself a very healthy individual – 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,” says Tiu.

Mitchell adds: “Eating heart healthy is also good for your immune system and gut health too!”

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On Thursday, February 15 from 12:00pm-1:00pm UConn Health’s Calhoun Cardiology Center will be hosting a virtual “Heart Healthy Teaching Kitchen.”

Register in advance for the webinar where you will learn how to eat heart healthy and even prepare a heart healthy meal of Citrus Lentil Grilled Salmon Salad (or another lean protein substitute like chicken). UConn Health experts participating in the webinar include:

  • Kalet Garcia, executive chef, UConn Health.
  • John Glenn Tiu, MD, FACC, RPVI, director, Preventive Cardiology Program, and assistant professor of medicine, Calhoun Cardiology Center, UConn Health.
  • Allison Mitchell, MS, RD, registered dietitian, and clinical nutrition manager, UConn Health.

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