For nearly a century, the American Heart Association (AHA) has been focused on helping people live healthier lives. The organization does this by supporting research and advancing treatments in the areas of cardiovascular and stroke care.
In addition, the AHA serves as a public resource for people looking to better their health through diet and lifestyle choices. Keep reading to learn more about the AHA’s most recent diet and lifestyle recommendations.
Focus on Nutrition from All the Food Groups
For many people, eating enough food is not a problem, but they may still lack some of the vital nutrients needed to make them feel their best. To ensure that you’re getting the right nutrition, the AHA recommends that you follow a diet comprising healthy food choices from every food group. This includes a variety of fruits and vegetables with every meal and snack. The AHA also reminds people that all forms of vegetables are great options, including those that are fresh, frozen, canned, or dried.
In addition to promoting the consumption of fruits and vegetables throughout the day, the AHA recommends that people make whole grains, skinless fish and poultry, low-fat dairy products, and nuts and legumes a part of their daily diet. Moreover, beans and other legumes can be especially beneficial because they are a great source of protein, minerals, and fiber, but they don’t contain the saturated fat found in some animal proteins. Beans can also help you feel full longer and may even reduce blood cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
Finally, the AHA reminds people that healthier fats should be included as part of a well-rounded diet. These include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which have been associated with better heart health. The AHA points out that some great sources of these types of fats are certain cooking oils, including olive, canola, safflower, and soybean.
Read Nutrition Labels and Cut out the Junk Food
As many people know, following a healthy diet is as much about what you don’t eat as it is about what you do eat. The AHA recommends carefully reading nutrition labels to avoid foods that are high in calories but low in nutrients. Reading nutrition labels is the best way to avoid consuming high levels of saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium, which have all been tied to heart disease.
To make it easier for people to identify nutrient-dense foods while avoiding junk calories, the AHA provides a nutrition label guide on its website. The guide outlines each section of the Nutrition Facts label, from the “Amount per Serving” information at the top to the “% Daily Value” at the bottom.
Finally, the AHA reminds consumers that the information shown on the Nutrition Facts label is based on a 2,000-calorie per day diet, which is a baseline target that is not appropriate for everyone.
Burn the Calories You Take in
Knowing how many calories you should be eating and drinking each day to maintain your weight is based on several factors, including your age, gender, and level of physical activity. The AHA points out that avoiding weight gain can be as simple as burning at least as many calories as you consume each day. To help keep the weight off, you can burn more calories by increasing the amount and/or intensity of your physical activity.
As a baseline, the AHA suggests that all people aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. The AHA’s recommendations are based on the 2nd edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, published by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Scientific evidence supports that there is a strong connection between physical activity and healthy weight as well as disease prevention and overall health and well-being.
The AHA offers several tips to add more activity to your daily routine. This includes parking farther away from your destination and opting to take the stairs rather than the elevator. The AHA also outlines several options for both moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity aerobic activities. Brisk walking, dancing, and gardening all fall into the moderate-intensity category, while activities such as running, jumping rope, and cycling over 10 miles per hour are all considered vigorous-intensity aerobic exercises.
For many years, the AHA has been working hard to help people quit tobacco, a product that puts them at a much higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Today, in addition to focusing on traditional tobacco products, the AHA warns against the dangers of vaping, which health officials have recently connected to many cases of serious medical problems. To help people avoid the dangerous health effects associated with tobacco and vaping, the AHA raises awareness of the dangers and provides tips for quitting.
The organization’s five steps to quit smoking are as follows:
- Set your “Quit Day.”
- Choose your quitting method.
- Talk to your doctor for assistance.
- Make a plan for going forward after quitting.
- Quit tobacco for good starting with your Quit Day.
More information about these steps and the AHA’s other tips for healthy living are available at www.heart.org.
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