By Dr. Sunny Vikrum Malhotra, Cardiologist, AdvantageCare Physicians
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in the United States and has become a significant burden on our health care system.
There is mounting evidence that shows the benefits of lowering bad cholesterol in controlling diabetes and improving life expectancy. One of the best ways we can take control of our own health is to choose a balanced, heart-healthy diet.
Eat “clean,” not processed
The Mediterranean diet, in particular, has been shown to improve cardiovascular health and help ward off heart disease and strokes. This healthy, “clean” diet is characterized by comparatively higher consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and low-fat dairy products, and lower intake of fried and processed foods, meat, added fat, high-calorie drinks, and sweets.
In addition to reducing the risk of heart disease, evidence suggests that the Mediterranean diet has benefits in managing weight, protecting against type 2 diabetes, and improving cholesterol and blood sugar levels — all of which may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Research indicates that individuals who adhere to this dietary pattern could have increased longevity and a 20 percent reduced risk of death at any age.
Don’t skip meals
In addition to a healthy diet, eating meals routinely is important to avoid binge eating during other meals. Skipping meals, especially breakfast, can lead to out-of-control hunger. Healthy snacking between meals can help curb hunger and maintain steady blood sugar levels. However, if you snack too frequently or eat unhealthy snacks, the additional calories can lead to weight gain.
Watch your portions
It is important to note that limiting food portions is essential in maintaining a healthy diet. One restaurant portion can be a meal for two or saved for someone to eat on another occasion. When you order an entree, you can ask them to automatically put half of it aside for take-out. If it does not end up on your plate, you will be less likely to overeat and you will have a meal ready for tomorrow.
Sometimes making these changes cold turkey can be difficult, so it is important to see the importance of short-term goals. This could mean keeping a food diary and writing down your food choices for a few days and then eliminating the bad snacks. It could mean increasing your fruit and vegetable intake. We underutilize writing what we eat in a food diary to monitor what our calorie intake is. This can be a powerful tool to committing to a healthy diet.
Mobile apps can assist you in calorie counting to control your intake. While a healthy diet is important, it is important to note that this must be done along with moderate intensity exercise at least 5 days a week for 30 minutes a day. Habits are born out of repeated behaviors and small changes to your current lifestyle.
For more information about getting and staying healthier, get a customized Preventive Care Plan here, based on your age, gender and any of your known conditions. You can schedule an appointment with your physician to discuss your plan and answer any questions or concerns you may have.
Dr. Sunny Vikrum Malhotra is a cardiologist for AdvantageCare Physicians, one of New York’s largest physician-led multi-specialty practices serving half a million patients in 36 locations throughout New York City and Long Island. Twitter: @drsunnymalhotra