Learning to eat nutritiously is one of the best things a person can do to ensure good health.
“Here in Oklahoma, we still have a much higher than average number of overweight and obese residents,” said Amanda Horn, a registered dietitian and a family and consumer sciences educator for the Oklahoma County OSU Cooperative Extension Service. “And these residents have a much higher risk for heart disease and other conditions related to poor nutrition.”
Though other risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking can contribute to heart disease, improving our diet and staying physically active are two habits that anyone of us can develop, Horn said.
“We may not be able to avoid some risk factors that are hereditary, but we can all improve our health by learning to eat better,” Horn said.
Increasing the number of fruits and vegetables in our diet, as well as whole fiber, low-fat dairy and low-salt, low-sugar foods is a first step.
Higher-sodium foods may be associated with higher blood pressure rates in children and adolescents, which can lead to the early development of heart disease, especially in people who are overweight or obese, Horn said.
“The World Heart Federation estimates that at least 80 percent of all deaths from heart disease and stroke could have been avoided by early and ongoing prevention,” Horn said. “Simple lifestyle changes can make a significant difference in the development of risk factors.”
In addition to eating a healthy diet and staying at a healthy weight, Horn stressed the importance of getting regular physical activity.
“This is a challenge for some people,” Horn acknowledged, “and can be even more so for Oklahomans who are growing older. But nearly all of us can get some kind of physical activity every day. Even a little bit is better than doing nothing.”
The U.S. Surgeon General recommends that adults take part in moderate-intensity exercise for around 30 minutes on most days of the week.
Not smoking and limiting alcohol use also are recommended.
“In addition to improving the diet through better food choices and engaging in regular physical activity, Oklahomans should have their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers checked regularly,” Horn said.
Though heart disease is considered a “man's disease” by some people, Horn said, it is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, accounting for 25 percent of all female deaths.
“Men and women who have no symptoms can still be a risk for heart disease,” Horn explained. “A large majority of women who die suddenly from coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.”
The Oklahoma County Extension Service offers ongoing workshops and classes designed to help residents improve their nutrition. To access more information about nutrition issues, residents can download Oklahoma State University fact sheets at osufacts.okstate.edu.
We may not be able to avoid some risk factors that are hereditary, but we can all improve our health by learning to eat better.”
Registered dietitian and a family and consumer sciences educator for the Oklahoma County OSU Cooperative Extension Service