Norfolk County Cardiologist Association

NUTRITION : Be Smart for Your Heart
Let's face it: Not everyone can be thin. But you can reach and maintain your best weight!

It's not easy. But it's possible. Your genes may affect your susceptibility to obesity, but some people simply eat too many calories. Obesity, which is a problem for about a third of the adult population in America, can contribute to heart disease.

So battle the bulge with a plan that includes developing -- and maintaining -- a healthy diet and an active lifestyle. It also helps to have family or friends who support your efforts.

In short, managing your weight requires you to be smart for your heart in three strategic ways:

1. Kick those bad habits... out of your life!

Are you eating lots of foods that are high in fat (especially saturated fat)? Then it's wise to drop them. They add even more calories to your overall diet. Furthermore, most foods high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood. And that can lead to risk for heart disease

2. Develop an eating plan... for life!

Most women can lose an average of one to two pounds a week by consuming 1200--1500 calories a day. Most men can lose this amount by consuming 1500--1800 calories a day. One to two pounds a week is the ideal rate of weight loss.

Three different nutritionally complete diets are listed below. Your doctor, a registered dietitian or a licensed nutritionist can tell you which of the three calorie levels is best for you.

Total Daily Calories

Food 1200 Calories Amount 1600 Calories Amount 1800 Calories Amount

Lean meat, poultry or fish 6 oz. cooked 6 oz. cooked 6 oz. cooked

Eggs 3 a week 3 a week 3 a week

Vegetables 4 servings 4 servings 4 or more servings

Fruits 3 servings 3 servings 3 servings

Breads, cereals or starchy vegetables 3 servings 4 servings 6 servings

Fat-free milk 2 cups 3 cups 3 cups

Margarine or oil 3 tsp. 4 tsp. 5 tsp.

Optional foods 2 2

The daily food plans listed above include the essentials of a nutritious, well-balanced diet containing a variety of foods. To find the food pattern suited to you, calculate your caloric level using the following formula:

· Multiply the number of pounds you weigh now by 15 calories. This number represents the average number of calories used up in one day by a moderately active person of your weight.

· If you sit around or get very little exercise, multiply your weight by 13 instead of 15. Less-active people burn fewer calories.

To lose one pound, you need to burn 3500 calories more than you take in. In other words, you need to run a calorie deficit. To do this, reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories per day. (Seven days times 500 calories equals 3500 calories -- one pound.)

Losing one to two pounds per week is a good rate of loss.

To maintain your ideal weight, weigh yourself once a week. When you're three to five pounds heavier than you should be, start eating less or exercising more (or both) until your weight is back down where you want it.

If you lose too much weight, increase your caloric intake mainly by eating lower-fat foods such as grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy products with fat-free milk. Try to stay within five pounds of your best weight.

To get all the nutrients your body needs, carefully follow the food plan you selected.

Other helpful hints include:

· Plan the kinds of food you'll eat and the number of meals and snacks you'll have.

· Don't skip whole categories of food.

· Vary your diet by eating different foods within each group. (Eating a variety of foods is essential to get all the nutrients you need.)

· Try to enjoy your food with less salt. Salt is about half sodium, and eating too much sodium raises blood pressure in some people. The AHA recommends that a person's daily sodium intake should be no more than 2400 mg. To maintain this level, season foods with herbs and spices instead of salt, read food labels to help track your sodium intake and limit your consumption of salty foods.

And remember, make this a part of your life.

3. Engage in physical activity ... as a way of life!

To manage your weight, you must use up more calories (energy) than you consume. You can do this in three different ways:

· Eat less (take in fewer calories).

· Increase the calories you burn up (for instance, by increasing the amount you exercise).

· Eat less and be more physically active.

Check with your doctor first if you are middle-aged or older, have a medical condition, have not been physically active, and plan to start a relatively vigorous exercise program. Your doctor will help you find a program suited to your needs and physical condition. It's good to take an exercise tolerance test to determine your present capabilities and identify potential hazards.

If you're in good health, your doctor likely will recommend a program of frequent, ongoing physical activity that:

· is rhythmic

· is repetitive

· involves motion and using large muscles and

· challenges the circulatory system

It's best to do aerobic exercises such as jogging, swimming and walking at moderate intensity 30--60 minutes at a time at least 3--4 times a week. This will condition your heart and lungs. These activities also help burn calories. For example, a 200-pound person who eats the same amount of calories but walks briskly each day for 1 1/2 miles will lose about 14 pounds in a year.

Besides weight control, exercise may help relieve tension and help control cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes.

Even moderate, regular physical activity helps lower your risk of heart disease. Examples are pleasure walking, gardening, yard work and dancing.

Don't let physical activity be just a fad. Like eating habits, make it a lifetime commitment.