Heart-health starts with the first bite!

Articles
October 12, 2009

Heart-health starts with the first bite!

To coincide with National Child Health Day (October 5th), the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association (PCNA) released findings from a nationally representative survey that found the majority of Americans, approximately 61%, falsely believe that the processes related to the development of heart disease begin in adulthood. Hey, who doesn't want to believe that kids can eat whatever they want with no ill health effects? With the country's continued expanding waistlines (surprised Merriam-Webster hasn't coined the term yet), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report approximately 15% of 2-19 year olds are currently overweight, and one in six adolescents have pre-diabetes; and unfortunately these numbers continue to swell. Overweight and obesity, yes even in childhood, are named by the PCNA as the main reasons for the increased risk and prevalence of heart disease in the United States.  
 
Heart Disease is the number one cause of death in the United States; a staggering and unavoidable 92% of the population is at risk. The PCNA found that less than one-third of Americans follow a heart-healthy diet and sadly 70% of respondents felt they were setting a bad example regarding food choices and would not want their kids to adopt their eating habits.
 
It is important to eat a varied and balanced diet full of healthy foods throughout life; and it is well known that most habits formed during childhood do not really change as we age. As many of us know, trying to alter lifelong habits proves difficult. Still, fewer than four in 10 believe that living heart-healthy should begin in childhood; but maybe if we stopped to think and consider the state of our individual health as it relates to heart disease and other chronic disease, whose major risk factors are related to lifestyle and thus modifiable, we would begin to think differently (and possibly even think twice about letting Jr. eat another cream filled doughnut as an after school snack).
 
Research has found that childhood education around heart-healthy eating habits can strongly influence behavior to reduce heart disease later in life. This in conjunction with positive and healthy role models - parents its time to step up to the plate, and make healthy-heart-friendly kid choices at the supermarket -manufacturers your formulation efforts thus far are commendable and lets continue in this direction, are all necessary for a healthier future. Maybe it's the end of kids meals?...and instead package "adult food" in smaller kid friendly portions.   
 
Here are some heart healthy tips that can benefit everyone:
•    Fats are and important part of a healthy diet: nuts, seeds, fish and oils are an important source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and cod contain high levels of Omega-3 fats, which are known to reduce triglycerides in the blood. 
     - Walnuts, flaxseeds and almonds in their correct portions also contain heart healthy fats, which can help reduce LDL cholesterol.
•    Consume more fruits and vegetables: fresh, frozen or canned are great. Be mindful of added sodium and/or sugars - read labels. Tomatoes, onions and cranberries are especially great choices as they contain antioxidants and other bioactive compounds associated with a healthy heart.
•    Be mindful of:
     - Sodium intake, read food labels and choose products that are salt free or "reduced sodium". 
     - Limit saturated and trans fat intake. This includes foods from animals such as beef, veal, lamb, pork, poultry fat, butter, cream, and milk (2% or greater). Saturated fats and trans fats can also be found in some plant products including palm oil, coconut oil and cocoa butter.
 
 
The PCNA's research was conducted in September 2009 by Kelton Research. Respondents formed a nationally representative sample of1000 people.

For more heart-healthy information visit the American Heart Association at www.Americanheart.org, Information about the PCNA can be found at www.pcna.net as well as their "Family at Heart" campaign www.familyatheart.org.