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July 28, 2015
Summer Simplicity: How going back to the basics can save your heart

A balanced, low-sodium diet is important to keep your heart happy. In Harrington’s Cardiology department, we recommend our patients eat five or more fruits and vegetables per day.

With all the farmers’ markets and fresh produce shipped into grocery stores daily, what better time to experiment with new ways to cook them or try new ones while they are season? An increased intake of fruits and veggies is associated with a decrease in cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality.

Cholesterol and heart health go hand and hand, so keeping your cholesterol low will significantly reduce your risk of a cardiovascular event. One of the best ways to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level is to watch what you eat.

A heart-healthy diet includes lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grains, along with some beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, and similar foods. Try avoiding sugar, sweets, and refined grains, and trading them in for nuts, mild milk products, and some fish, like salmon, herring, and tuna.

Recent research conducted at a Brazilian University by lead researcher Dr. Filipe Moura found that “bad” cholesterol levels, also known as LDL or low-density lipoprotein, tend to be eight percent lower in the summer months than in the winter. In addition, most people’s HDL or high-density lipoprotein (“good” cholesterol) increases by about five percent.

Grilling your veggies can help eliminate the fatty sauces we use to spice up these foods in the winter.

Spring and summer is also the perfect time to garden, giving you access to the freshest fruits and vegetables right in your backyard. Not to mention that the time in the sun ups your vitamin D intake, and all of that digging and lifting gives you some gentle exercise. Gardening is also a great opportunity to teach your family and friends the values of eating healthy and is a fantastic stress reliever.

Pair your produce with low-glycemic index carbs (45 to 65 percent daily), proteins low in trans and saturated fats (10 to 35 percent daily), and the lowest trans fat consumption possible. And don’t forget your fiber! Women should get 25 grams per day, and men should get 38 grams per day. If you can accomplish this basic diet breakdown, then you and your heart should be in pretty good shape…literally!

Diet and exercise are the most effective ways to prevent a major cardiovascular event, but sometimes this isn’t enough, so ask your doctor for advice on medication and other ways to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.