Laura Masullo, M.S. R.D.
Can you guess which disease is responsible for killing one in three Americans? You got it—heart disease. Claiming over 780,000 American lives annually, heart disease, sometimes referred to as cardiovascular disease, remains the nation’s number one killer.1 While efforts to reduce death and disability in men have improved, only one out of five women is aware that heart disease is her top health threat.2 So for American Heart Month, let’s talk about what you can do to fight this deadly disease—for you and the women you love.
First, know the risk factors. Many things contribute to heart disease. While some are genetic, other risk factors can be controlled through lifestyle modifications. These include smoking, overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and physical inactivity; if you have one or more, don’t be overwhelmed—even small changes can make a big difference! Tackle each one at your own pace:
Stop smoking. You may associate smoking with lung cancer, but smoking actually damages other parts of your body too, including your heart and blood vessels. If you currently smoke, aim to quit. Check out the American Heart Association’s® resources page for tips on quitting.
Get moving. Physical activity can help improve cardiovascular health, so it’s no surprise that the American Heart Association® recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week.3 Daunting as it may sound, meeting this goal is as simple as a 30-minute brisk walk five days of the week. Be sure to start off slow and spread out your activity to avoid injury and exhaustion, especially if you’re currently sedentary. To learn more about how to be active your way, click here.
Note that if you currently have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, new guidelines from the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association® advise that adults get three to four 40-minute sessions of moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise per week.4
Manage your weight. Your heart is happier when you’re at a healthy weight. If you’re not sure whether you need to shed some pounds, first determine your body mass index (BMI)—a good indicator of weight status. If your BMI is 25 kg/m2 or higher, strive to achieve a healthy weight by burning more calories than you eat. Determine your calorie needs and visit our weight management section for great tips on healthy weight loss.
Eat heart-healthy. Diet is another part of your lifestyle that can be modified to prevent heart disease. First let’s focus on the “negative” nutrients, which include saturated fat and trans fat (solid fats), cholesterol, and sodium. How much should you aim for each day?
- Saturated fat: < 7% of total calories, or 5 to 6% if you have high cholesterol4
- Trans fat: < 1% of total calories
- Cholesterol: < 300 mg
- Sodium: < 2,300 mg, with further reduction to 1,500 mg if you’re 51 and older, or are African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease5
Limiting intake of these nutrients might seem restrictive and cumbersome—but if you keep in mind the overall dietary pattern rather than individual foods, you’ll find it’s easier—and more delicious—than you thought! A heart-healthy diet is not a prescription; it’s a flexible way of eating that incorporates many nutrient-dense foods: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy, nuts, and non-tropical oils, with limited intakes of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meat. Visit USDA’s MyPlate to find out how much you should eat from each food group.
Campbell to the rescue! Eating for your heart doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor. Campbell’s® Healthy Request® soups are a tasty way to mix up the mundane. Visit our Product Nutrition Finder to learn more about our products. Check “heart healthy” to explore our products that meet that criteria. Check out the Campbell Healthy Eating Plan to see how you can incorporate our products, including Campbell´s® soups, Prego® sauces, V8® beverages and Pepperidge Farm® bread, into a healthy dietary pattern. Just pick the plan most appropriate for your calorie and sodium needs—Campbell offers a 2,000 or 1,600-calorie plan, each available at 2,300 mg and 1,500 mg of sodium. Each one includes a seven-day menu consistent with the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet, which are both recommended by the American Heart Association®.
Cheers to Heart Health! Laura.
Laura received her bachelor's degree in nutritional sciences from Rutgers University and completed her dietetic internship at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She worked for the Campbell Soup Company as an intern and contractor for two years, and has returned to Campbell after completing her master's degree in human nutrition at the University of Delaware. Laura is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the New Jersey Dietetic Association.
Please note that the Heart-Check Food Certification does not apply to scientific research by an organization other than the American Heart Association® or links to other information unless expressly stated.
2. Causes and Prevention of Heart Disease.
https://www.goredforwomen.org/about-heart-disease/facts_about_heart_disease_in_women-sub-category/causes-prevention/ Accessed December 13, 2013.
4. Eckel RH, Jakicic JM, Ard, JD, Hubbard VS, de Jesus JM, Lee IM, Lichtenstein AH, Loria CM, Millen BE, Houston Miller N, Nonas CA, Sacks FM, Smith SC Jr, Svetkey LP, Wadden TW, Yanovski SZ. 2013 American Heart Association®/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: a report of the American College of Cardiology American/Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2013;00:000–000.
5. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/PolicyDoc.pdf