February Heart Health Month

SaladFebruary is American Heart Month and I’d like to focus on bringing awareness to heart disease and how you can prevent it. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease. The good news is that is can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices – focused around diet and exercise. That is why I am here as your Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer to help sort out the facts versus myths regarding nutrition and fitness and get you on the right track!


Here are a few ways to lower your risk:

1. Get Your Annual Doctor Evaluation: I highly recommend going to see your doctor for an annual check up, where you can get your labs drawn, and “know your numbers.” You might feel okay, but your labs will indicate that your LDL (low density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol) and triglycerides are extremely high, which will put you at greater risk of heart disease. You will not know until you get your labs checked.

Lab goals:

  • Cholesterol <200 mg/dL
  • LDL (bad cholesterol) <100 mg/dL
  • HDL (good cholesterol) >60 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides <150 mg/dL
  • Blood pressure 120/80

Note* LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides are increased by foods that are high in saturated fat, and trans fat. Your Blood pressure is affected by mostly by sodium intake.


Make it a goal to consume <7% of total calories from saturated fat and preferably no trans fat (this is added to many processed foods for increased shelf life, preservation). Eating fresh food is always best. Make it a goal to consume approximately 2300 mg or less of sodium per day.


Fit2. Watch Your Weight:

Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of heart disease. A healthy body mass index (BMI) range is between 18-24. Please note, that BMI does not always apply to individuals with large muscle mass (i.e. athletes and body builders) because BMI does not take into account muscle mass. Therefore, if you have a large muscle mass, you may fall into the “overweight” category, which is not accurate. I recommend getting your body fat % tested for a more specific measure and better alternative for those who fit into this category.

Determination3. Quit Smoking:

If you smoke, it is important to find a support system and to stop smoking because it will lower your risk of heart disease. Also, avoid second hand smoke whenever possible. Replace this habit with a healthy habit or hobby focused around exercise such as running or tennis, etc.




4. Drink only in Moderation:

Alcohol is a source of empty calories and provides little to no nutritional value. It contains 7 calories per gram which is more than carbohydrates or proteins (which provide 4 calories per gram). It can add up calories quickly during a night out or weekend binge. It’s also important to limit (or avoid) intake of juice and soda which combine a concentrated source of sugar, and are usually used when making “mixed drinks.” For example, 8 ounces of a standard margarita on the rocks yields 455 calories, and a 12 ounce margarita has approximately 680 calories. Lighter alternatives for mixers would be club soda water or fresh squeezed lime juice. Red wine contains antioxidants called flavonoids, which help to reduce the production of LDL (bad cholesterol) and heart disease. However, the benefits of red wine only apply if you have one (5 ounce) glass. If you consume 2-3 glasses, the benefits will cancel out.


Another thing to think about is what you’re eating when you’re drinking alcohol, because it stimulates your appetite for the “not so healthy” foods such as fried foods, burgers, pizza, etc. This is a double whammy on the body because your liver is working hard to digest the alcohol first, before it can digest the food. If you drank an excessive amount of alcohol and then ate a heavy meal, the food will most likely be stored as fat in the body if it is not used as energy.


Chocolate ShakeNote* If you drink alcohol, moderation is key (2 drinks per day for a male, 1 drink per day for a female). If you don’t drink alcohol, than you do not need to start. Another option is to replace alcohol with a healthy alternative such as my protein shake pictured on the right.

My Recipe includes 1 banana, 1/2 cup spinach (you won’t taste it I promise!), 1 tbsp. almond butter, 1 tbsp. chia seeds, 1 tbsp. hemp seeds, 1 tbsp. 100% raw cacao powder, 1 scoop whey or pea protein powder, sprinkle of cinnamon, and 6 ounces unsweetened almond or coconut milk. Add 2-3 ice cubes, blend and enjoy! You can drink this for breakfast, post workout or as an alternative to dessert in the evening! It will leave you feeling full, energized and satisfied.


Core5. Get Active and Eat Clean!

This is my favorite one!! Choose a sport or hobby related to a physical activity that you enjoy and do it for at least 30 minutes per day. It’s fun to find a workout buddy, or join a team because it holds you accountable and brings a social component to exercising. When you have self doubt, or are tired from work, dealing with a high stress environment and don’t want to exercise, it’s great to have the encouragement of a friend or teammate to help get you there. The support and motivation makes all the difference and you’ll be so happy after your workout is done. Exercise releases those mood boosting, feel good endorphins, increases energy, and promotes weight management and improved sleep.


Toast6. Healthy Eating

Following a healthy eating regimen is a lifestyle choice and it is extremely important for disease prevention and anti aging. You can heal your body from the inside out, by choosing foods high in cancer fighting antioxidants and super foods to repair cell damage, and keep your body/organs in top shape. The picture on the left is my favorite morning meal or pre workout snack: 1 slice whole wheat toast, a spread of nonfat plain Greek yogurt, a touch of honey and cinnamon with a sprinkle of pistachios on top. It is the perfect combination of whole grains, protein and heart healthy fats to nourish your body.

Most of us know that donuts are not healthy in comparison to an apple, however we might still choose a donut due to a craving. Hormones play a large role in our cravings, which are affected by sleep and stress. It’s important to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and to keep stress down by doing yoga, mediation, deep breathing exercises, and taking time for yourself.

Sugar cravings can also be due to an inadequate total calorie and protein intake earlier in the day. However, it’s not about a bad decision you made one out of the 365 days per year, it’s more about the pattern of your eating in the long term which really matters. For example, maybe you eat a slice of pizza on a “cheat day” but on most other days you eat salads (fruits and vegetables), lean proteins and whole grains. It’s all about moderation (portion control), variety (consumption of a “rainbow of colors” which allows for a wide range of nutrients) and balance (filling your plate with about ½-1 cup cooked high fiber carbohydrate, 3-4 ounces of a lean protein, and filling ½ your plate with vegetables). Eating every 3-4 hours is critical for weight management, blood sugar control, increased energy and concentration.


Run SelfieHowever, one size does NOT fit all. It’s important that you consume quality nutrients in the right proportions, specific to your customized macronutrient needs. Schedule your initial nutrition consultation today to look and feel your best tomorrow! Contact Courtney Sullivan, Registered Dietitian, Certified Personal Trainer and Founder of Nutrition for Body and Mind for your consultation today! 


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