By Jim Duffy
The last decade has seen deaths related to cardiovascular causes drop by 40% and deaths related to stroke drop by 35%. Yet there are only 16% fewer smokers and less than 3% fewer people defined as obese. There are two things that affect overall cardiovascular health - behavior and factors. Defining both and finding a good personal level between each are the keys to good cardiovascular health.
There are a number of behaviors that the American Heart Association deems important for good cardiovascular health, including exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, getting the proper amount of exercise, and avoiding smoking.
Good cardiovascular factors include keeping your blood pressure at an optimal level, as well as keeping a decent blood sugar and cholesterol level. The AHA has set a range these numbers should remain between, and it's best when it can be done without medication.
Organizations like the American Heart Association, the American Diabetic Association, and the American Cancer Association used to focus solely on their individual diseases, but they have recently come to realize that is not enough. Central to keeping disease away is the concept of keeping healthy overall. There are many behaviors that help not only cardiovascular health, but every part of the body, for both adults and children, including:
- Adults: If you are a smoker, quit as soon as possible. The sooner you quit, the better your health will be in the long run. It doesn't take long for your lungs to return to their old level of functionality, which means less chance of not only lung disease, but heart disease.
- Children: If you never start, you'll never have to quit - and quitting smoking is one of the most difficult things to do.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Adults: The American Heart Association has guidelines on what a healthy weight is for every person. This weight should be maintained by a balanced, healthy diet, not a fad diet or the latest thing that takes off a lot of weight at once (which will only return once the fad ends). These diets can often be dangerous, because they provide too much of some nutrients while eschewing others, ending up with most of the weight loss being loss of water weight. The best way to lose weight is slowly and steadily, using a sensible diet.
- Children: Activity is the goal for children. There should be an hour, at least, of physical activity each day. And, of course, a healthy diet is ideal. Each day should also include a period where there are no televisions, computers, or video games.
- Adults: Abundant fruits and vegetables are important, as is completely avoiding fried foods. Cut down on salt and try to eat only healthy fats. Your protein sources should be lean meat and plant sources. When it comes to plain-based proteins, soy is the only one considered complete.
- Children: Do not force children to clean their plates and give them portions that are smaller.
The Basics of a Healthy Diet
All food is composed of a combination of the three macro-nutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Any healthy diet will include all three. The good carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates. The fats should also come from healthy sources. Protein can be derived from both plants and animals, but any animal-based sources of protein should be lean. Protein supplements can be a great part of a heart-healthy diet. The recommendation of the American Heart Association is that about 35% of most diets should be protein, with most of the rest devoted to carbohydrates.
Animal-Based Sources of Protein
Animal-based proteins are considered complete, since they have all eight of the essential amino acids that the human body cannot produce. The best sources are the lean ones like turkey and chicken. Eggs and low-fat dairy foods are another excellent source for protein. Red meat, however, should be limited in the diet.
Plant-Based Sources of Protein
Virtually all plant-based sources of protein are incomplete, with soy being the only exception. Soy is the only one to have all eight essential amino acids. Vegetarians and vegans can still get all the proteins necessary by eating combinations of these foods.
Protein supplements come in many forms, including protein powders, bars, and liquid protein supplement shots. These are all made from natural sources of protein, either plant or animal-based, which means you will have to make good choices. They all contain different amounts of protein, but some have extra fats or sugars which should be avoided.
Whey protein is produced as a byproduct of cheese production. Whey protein powder has two basic varieties: the cheaper concentrate (containing about 30% to 85% protein) and the more expensive isolate (containing 90%) protein. Whey protein isolate has a smaller lactose content, which means it can be used by most lactose intolerant people.
Just two servings of soy protein each day can lower the level of blood cholesterol by as much as nine points. It can also lower blood pressure, which can reduce the risk of a heart attack. Soy also comes in both concentrated and isolated forms and is easy to digest. Vegans and vegetarians can take soy protein without any problems.
Egg protein comes from the white of the egg, which is a perfect protein. This is the standard by which all other forms of protein are judged.
These proteins come from brown rice and have all eight of the essential amino acids, making it complete. Rice is also hypoallergenic, making it ideal for anyone who has food allergies or food sensitivities. Vegans and vegetarians can also use rice protein without compromising.
Profect is a liquid protein supplement shot. Only 2.9 fluid ounces in size, it only contains 100 calories, no fat, and no carbohydrates. It contains 25 grams of protein and helps to suppress the appetite while providing a good deal of the protein you will need for the day.
Carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation over the last several years, but the truth is that carbohydrates are a large part of a healthy diet - or at least this is the case with complex carbohydrates. Foods like whole great breads and pastas, certain fruits and vegetables, and other such foods are high in complex carbohydrates. On the other hand, simple carbohydrates are not healthy at all.
There are even healthy fats that should be a part of a healthy diet. These should be about 20% of the calories you consume every day. Things like fatty fish, olive oil, and avocados are high in healthy fats.
Protica Research (Protica, Inc.) specializes in the development of Capsulized Foods. Protica manufactures Profect, IsoMetric, Pediagro, Fruitasia and over 100 other brands, including Medicare-approved, whey protein drinks for cancer patients. You can learn more at http://www.protica.com