More on New Heart Association Guidelines Emphasize Lifestyle
New Heart Association Guidelines Emphasize Lifestyle
Breaking News - June 2006 - Week 3
(Jun 21, 2006)
-- New guidelines concerning diet and lifestyle are intended to help prevent cardiovascular disease, the number one cause of death in the US.
The new guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) are intended for healthy Americans age 2 and older. The new recommendations replace guidelines issued by the AHA in 2000.
The 2006 guidelines were published this week in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Emphasis Broadened to Include Lifestyle
“The key message of the recommendations is to focus on long-term, permanent changes in how we eat and live. The best way to lower cardiovascular risk is to combine physical activity with heart-healthy eating habits, coupled with weight control and avoiding tobacco products,” says Alice Lichtenstein, D.Sc.
Dr. Lichtenstein is chair of the AHA’s Nutrition Committee and Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston.
“The previous recommendations stressed a healthy dietary pattern; the new ones broaden that concept to include the importance of a healthy lifestyle pattern. The two go together - they should be inseparable,” says Dr. Lichtenstein,
The AHA continues to emphasize achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight, but is putting more emphasis on balancing the number of calories consumed with the number of calories burned.
A stronger focus is now placed on food preparation methods that avoid adding saturated fat, sugar, or salt. Portion size control is also stressed.
Besides the goals and recommendations, the statement has new sections with practical information for consumers such as knowing your caloric needs, food preparation tips, and some examples of dietary patterns consistent with the new recommendations.
Recommendations now include:
further reducing saturated and trans fatty acids in the diet
minimizing the intake of food and beverages with added sugars
emphasizing physical activity and weight control
eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain foods
avoiding use of and exposure to tobacco products
achieving and maintaining healthy cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels
More than 90 scientific publications were reviewed by a panel of nutrition and cardiovascular disease experts for the new AHA recommendations.
Environmental Factors Considered
Because environmental factors strongly influence how Americans eat and exercise, a new feature of the 2006 recommendations is a list of ways that healthcare providers, restaurants, the food industry, schools, and local governments can help the general public adopt these recommendations.
Examples include displaying caloric content prominently on menus, reducing portion size, limiting trans fatty acids, and using low-saturated-fatty-acid oils in food preparation.
Another major change in the dietary recommendations is a lower goal for saturated fat - from less than 10 percent to less than 7 percent - and establishing a goal for trans fatty acids of less than 1 percent of total calories.
Trans-fatty acids - which are now required to be shown on the Nutrition Facts panel of packaged foods - are commonly found in commercially baked and fried foods, such as crackers, French fries, cakes, pies, bread, and cookies.
The AHA urges industry to gradually reduce the salt and sugar content of processed foods and to increase the proportion of whole grains compared to white flour in baked goods, among other recommendations.
Small Changes Can Help
“Almost anyone can make changes in how they eat and move their bodies to bring themselves closer to the recommended goals. The changes can be small but need to be maintained. In no way are we saying people will have to give up all the things they enjoy; they just may have to make a few modifications in their current habits,” Dr. Lichtenstein says.
“A good first step to improve your diet and lifestyle - start paying attention to portion size and liquid calories, such as those in soft drinks, fruit drinks, fruit juices and alcoholic beverages. The next step is to try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day,” Dr. Lichtenstein says.
“It does not have to be done all at once - accumulating 30 minutes throughout the day is fine - and, of course, more is better. No one is too old or too out of shape to make small changes to increase physical activity,” she adds
Always consult your physician for more information.
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Vegetables May Help Keep Arteries Clear
Researchers have found that mice fed a vegetable-rich diet cut their risk for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) by 38 percent.
"There is some epidemiological evidence that people who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, probably more than five servings a day, have a lower risk of coronary heart disease than people who don't," says lead researcher Michael Adams, D.V.M., a professor of pathology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, N.C.
However, "there are a lot of problems with epidemiological [population-based] studies, a lot of factors that can't be controlled for," he says.
For instance, "those who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables are healthier in other ways," such as exercising more, he says.
So, Dr. Adams and his team decided to look on the physiological level as to how vegetable intake might affect blood vessel health.
The researchers fed a control group of 53 mice a vegetable-free diet. Another group of 54 mice got the same base diet, but with vegetables added to make up 30 percent of the total diet. Vegetables included freeze-dried broccoli, peas, green beans, corn, and carrots.
After 16 weeks, they assessed the animals' health and found those who ate the vegetable-rich diet had lower total cholesterol levels, lower levels of the so-called "bad" cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and a 7 percent lower average body weight.
"The mice who consumed 30 percent of their diet as vegetables developed atherosclerotic plaques that were 38 percent smaller than those of the mice who consumed no vegetables," says Dr. Adams.
The team did not track exercise as a variable, but the mice all lived in the same environment and so probably got about the same amount of activity, Dr. Adams says.
"The observation has been made in humans that people who eat fruits and vegetables have less coronary artery disease and less heart disease," says Dr. Alice Lichtenstein of the American Heart Association.
But to her knowledge, no one knows the mechanism. "It may be a direct effect, or people eating a lot of fruits and vegetables may have a diet [that is also] healthy in other ways," she says.
As for advice, Dr. Adams says boosting vegetable and fruit intake is always wise. "The average consumption in this country of green and yellow vegetables and of fruits is two to three servings a day. If people just ate 2 or 3 more servings a day, odds are they would be much healthier for it."
Always consult your physician for more information.
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