Ask the Doctor: Heart Health

The Calorie Control Council asked Keri Peterson, MD five questions about heart health.

What are foods that are heart healthy?
  • The first group is foods that are rich in anti-oxidants. These tend to be brightly colored like pomegranates, blueberries, tomatoes, and spinach.
  • Antioxidants decrease your risk of heart disease by preventing buildup of plaque in the arteries.
  • The next is fruits and veggies that are rich in potassium like oranges, bananas, and mushrooms. These benefit the heart by helping to regulate blood pressure.
  • Try to eat 5-9 servings a day of fruits and vegetables, making sure you have 3 vegetables and 2 fruits.
What types of fish have abundant amounts of omega-3’s? And what is the appropriate portion size of fish to eat per day?
  • Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, or rainbow trout are abundant in omega-3’s which reduce your risk for heart disease.
  • I recommend a 4 ounce serving of fish twice a week- that’s about the size of a deck of cards.
  • These help reduce the risk of heart disease by decreasing your blood pressure and your triglycerides.
What numbers should I know about my health?
  • Being aware of whether you have risk factors for heart disease is very important so you can be proactive about your health and modify your behavior if needed.
  • Everyone should know three numbers: your cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure. Blood pressure should be in the 120/80 range.
  • Also be aware of your family history. Your risk is increased if women in your family under 65, or men under 50, have had heart disease.
    • 17% if your father has had heart disease.
    • 43% if your mother was afflicted.
    • as much as 82% if both of your parents have heart disease.
Diabetes is a strong risk factor for the development of heart disease. What can I do to lower my risk?
  • Be sure to keep your body mass index in a normal range. (Check out the BMI calculator here.) Excess weight is the most significant contributing risk factor to the development of diabetes.
  • Eating healthily is one of the most important things you can do to lower your risk for diabetes. Maintain a diet rich in a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meats.
  • Limit the amounts of added sugars in your diet. The American Heart Association supports including non-nutritive sweeteners in place of added sugars.  Low calorie sweeteners can be used to sweeten food and drinks for less calories and carbohydrates.  For example, swap out full calorie drinks for low calorie sweetened beverages
  • Exercise 30 minutes, 5 days a week is the American Heart Association’s recommendation. Even just brisk walking for 30 minutes a day can help lower your risk.
My doctor told me that my cholesterol is starting to go up. What can I do to avoid going on medication?
  • Lower the amount of saturated fats like those found in red meat and whole milk dairy products.
  • Instead, focus on eating healthy fats which are unsaturated fats. These include olive oil, avocado and nuts.
  • Eliminate trans fats from your diet as they not only increase bad cholesterol levels but also lower good cholesterol also known as your HDL. Trans fats are in fried foods, margarine and many baked goods. If you see “partially hydrogenated” on the food label that is a clue that the product contains trans fats.
  • Increase the fiber in your diet. Foods like beans, whole oats and vegetables will keep your body from absorbing cholesterol And can lower your LDL.
  • Exercise regularly. Aim for moderate exercise five days per week.

 

Keri Peterson MDAbout Keri Peterson, MD

Dr. Peterson is a medical contributor and columnist for Women’s Health and a frequent guest on NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, Fox News and CNN. Based in New York City, Dr. Peterson has been in private practice since 1999 and holds appointments at Lenox Hill Hospital and Mount Sinai Medical Center.   With a BA from Cornell University and a Medical Degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, she completed post-graduate training in Internal Medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center and is board certified in Internal Medicine. Dr. Peterson is a member of the American College of Physicians and the American Medical Association, and serves as medical advisor for the Calorie Control Council

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