Tag Archives: heart

Three Easy Tips for Improving Your Heart Health

Healthy lifestyle concept, clean food good health dietary in heart dish with sporty gym aerobic body exercise workout training class equipment, weight scale and sports shoes in fitness center

While Valentine’s Day gets the majority of the heart-related attention in February, there’s another reason to celebrate – February marks American Heart Month, an observance focused on raising awareness about maintaining a healthy heart through proactive prevention. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Even if you are young and healthy, it is important to begin tracking and monitoring your heart’s health. Healthy habits formed in early adulthood can have long-lasting positive impacts on your well-being. Although some individuals may face certain risk factors for this disease outside of their control, the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center outlines how certain medical conditions associated with heart health are “controllable, and entirely preventable in some cases with lifestyle changes.”

Here are a few ideas for improving your heart health:

Understand your potential risks. Consider making an appointment with your primary care physician at least once a year to exclusively discuss and evaluate your heart health.  Be open about your family history, discuss your current medications and routinely monitor your cholesterol. You can also use self-service blood pressure kiosks located at several pharmacies and drug stores to check-in on your levels. The American Heart Association’s My Life Check® self-assessment tool can provide insight in to your personal risk factors.

Get your heart pumping. While any form of routine exercise is likely to bolster your holistic health, this blog from Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends focusing on three types of exercise for your heart: aerobic, resistance training and flexibility-centric movements. Boosting your endurance and strength doesn’t always have to happen at a gym, and you can always consult your Command Fitness Leader for new ideas on how to stay active. No matter your preferred activity, reducing your stress levels through exercise can also improve your heart health.

Practice healthy eating. Ingredients found in processed food may lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and even heart disease. Building balanced meals and incorporating healthy options as much as possible is important to maintaining your health. NHLBI’s comprehensive set of heart healthy eating resources offers recipe ideas and tailored eating plans. From avocado and shrimp spring rolls to banana oat cookies, this list of aggregated recipes by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Million Hearts® 2022 initiative outlines creative ideas for eating mindfully.

Improving your overall health doesn’t just start and end with making sure your heart is strong. Push forward with your other 2020 resolutions and your heart, as well as the rest of your body and mind, will thank you.

How Stress Impacts Your Heart Health

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Heart disease refers to numerous problems which are often related to plaque build-up in the heart’s arteries (atherosclerosis)[1]. There are a variety of risk factors for heart disease, some of which may be out of your control, such as genetics and age. Other risk factors – such as lack of exercise, an unhealthy diet or unchecked stress – can be minimized through lifestyle changes. That’s good news considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.

Stress is a natural reaction; it is the body’s way of coping with a perceived threat. As part of the ‘fight or flight’ response, stress signals the body to produce more energy by elevating the heart rate, increasing production of LDL cholesterol and blood glucose. This response should subside when the perceived threat (stressor) is no longer present. However, when we’re unable to unwind or are exposed to stress for a prolonged amount of time, the short and long term effects can be damaging. Stress can lead to poor eating choices, missed workouts and a lack of sleep. Without action, this combination of factors may lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.

According to the 2013 Fleet and Marine Corps Health Risk Assessment, only 12 percent of active duty Navy respondents and 13 percent of active duty Marine respondents indicated that they experienced work stress. However, those numbers increased as time away from home station increased. To help navigate stress, follow these tips:

Not all risk factors can be avoided, but exercising Controllability when it comes to navigating stress and making lifestyle choices can reduce risk. Small acts can help you do your part to protect your heart, improve your health and enhance your military readiness.

February is Heart Health Month. The Every Sailor, Every Day campaign thanks Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center for providing the above information, which can be found in their fact sheets “Heart Health: Risk Factors and Lifestyle Choices” and “Help your Heart, Help your Life” located in the February HPW Toolbox.

 

[1] What is Cardiovascular Disease? (2017, January 10). Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Caregiver/Resources/WhatisCardiovascularDisease/What-is-Cardiovascular-Disease_UCM_301852_Article.jsp#.WJns3dXR_9c

Tools for Healthy Eating, Barracks Style

oatmeal porridge in a bowlFor those who live in the barracks, dining options may seem limited to a repetitive menu of sandwiches, TV dinners and ramen noodles. It doesn’t have to be that way! These days many foods can be prepared without a stovetop or traditional oven, taking the stress out of creating tasty meals in the barracks while keeping your fitness in mind.

March is Navy Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is “Enjoy the taste of eating right.” Whether you’re seeking the comfort of a home-cooked meal or just trying to make the best of affordable microwave-cooking, the following simple tips incorporating the Principles of Resilience can help you eat healthy, “barracks style.”

  • Plan Ahead. Make good use of the available space in your room, shelves, locker, refrigerator and/or freezer, and always have them stocked with healthy meal and snack options. This will encourage you to eat what you have on hand and prevent you from eating out too often.
  • Build a Sense of Community. Make meal plans with your friends, neighbors and roommates. Eating together creates a community support system to enhance and maintain healthy eating habits. If you enjoy dining out with others, just work it into your weekly routine. Reserving eating out for social occasions helps to maintain a healthy body and budget. Opt for healthier menu items like steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached or roasted choices, and limit the fried stuff. Request gravy, sauces and dressings on the side. A good practice is to share a meal or take half home.
  • Don’t Just Rely on Premade Meals! With a little planning, you can still enjoy whole foods, even with limited refrigerator or storage space. Before your next grocery trip, make sure your list includes a variety of shelf-stable foods from each food group:
    • Grains: Look for cereals or granola bars with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving and few ingredients—read the labels! For a hot breakfast or snack with minimal prep, opt for instant oatmeal, cream of wheat or brown rice. Whole wheat or whole grain bread, tortillas, pita bread, and crackers are nutritious snack or sandwich options.
    • Vegetables: Fresh, canned or frozen, you can still get your veggies in with minimal prep!
    • Fruits: Choose fruit cups or fruit canned in its own juice or water (vice “heavy syrup”) to avoid added sugar, or opt for dried fruit.
    • Dairy: Choose low fat cheese or yogurt with minimal ingredients on the label. Try plain yogurt topped with your own fresh or dried fruit for added flavor.
    • Protein: Explore quick options like tuna packets, fat free chicken breast canned in water, nuts, nut butters, canned beans or Greek yogurt. (Choose low sodium canned and packaged foods with less than 480mg per serving on label)
    • Healthy Oils: Top off your salad or sandwich with olive oil, oil-based salad dressings, low fat mayonnaise, hummus or spreadable butter alternatives made with plant oils. Look for a greater amount of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega-3 fats and limit saturated and trans fats.
  • Get Creative with Your Equipment. Microwaving doesn’t have to mean under or unevenly cooked meals. Use ceramic, heat-resistant glass or BPA-free microwaveable plastics, and incorporate tools like a microwavable plastic folding omelet pan or vegetable steamer. Be sure to rotate food often for optimal taste and even cooking. If you’re looking for more variety, try using a toaster, electric grill, rice cooker or toaster oven (with the option to toast, bake, or broil).
  • Watching your weight?  Use an online tool like https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/ to calculate how many calories you need to lose, maintain, or gain weight and divide your calories into three meals per day.  For example, if you need 1800-2000 calories daily, then strive for 600-700 calories per meal.  Focus on heart-healthy, nutrient-dense foods from each food group.

Visit the “Eaters” link on the Navy Nutrition website for more resources on grocery shopping, meal planning, and healthy stress-free eating, barracks style!

A balanced diet is an essential part of preserving our mission readiness and ability to thrive in our personal lives and careers. Lt. Cmdr. Amit Sood, the OPNAV N17 Nutrition Program Manager, is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. He has nearly 10 years of experience in counseling thousands of service members and their families on nutrition and health-related issues, having delivered close to 600 nutrition-related lectures to more than 20 commands and institutions across the DoD.  With a passion for promoting nutritional awareness to enhance health and quality of life for individuals and populations, Lt. Cmdr. Sood hopes to offer simple and practical ways to maintain healthy eating practices 365 days a year.  He is a firm believer in the phrase “food is medicine,” and that every individual should embrace this idea to help them think about food as a therapeutic agent, thus leading to food choices that are beneficial rather than detrimental to overall health.

– NavyNavStress note