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City of Alexandria, VA City of Alexandria, VA
Health Department
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Page updated Jan 30, 2015 11:22 AM
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Healthy Start for a Healthy Heart

Research shows that following a healthy eating plan and exercise routine can reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and lower an already elevated blood pressure. Eating plans such as the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension, or “DASH”, emphasize the following changes to help you start taking care of your heart.

Eat 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

If you are already eating 1-2 fruits and vegetables a day, try to add another serving with your meals.  If you don’t eat any fruits or vegetables now, or you drink only juice, try adding a serving of fresh fruits or vegetables to your meals or have it as a snack. Use fresh, frozen, or no-salt added canned fruits and vegetables. For a quick and healthy snack, carry dried fruits with you.

Eat as least 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy products per day.

For example, drink milk with lunch or dinner instead of soda, sugar sweetened tea or alcohol. Choose low-fat (1%) or fat-free (skim) dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, to reduce your intake of saturated fat, total fat, cholesterol, and calories.

Limit salt and sodium in your diet.

Most American adults (and children too!) are eating too much sodium.  Eating too much sodium increases your risk for high blood pressure which is a major contributor to heart disease and stroke. A great way to cut back on salt and sodium is to prepare foods at home versus eating out.  Experiment with fresh herbs to add flavor instead of salt.  Check out suggestions from the National Institute of Health on ways to enjoy food without all the salt: https://healthyeating.nhlbi.nih.gov/default.aspx If you must eat out, try to avoid the foods that contain sodium overload like breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese and pasta dishes.

In addition to the DASH recommendations, other heart healthy strategies you could try include:

Increase physical activity.

Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity every day.  Even breaking up your activity into 10-minute intervals can make a huge difference.  Try taking a class like yoga, Zumba or kick-boxing to add something new to your routine.  Adding resistance training can also help with weight-control and increase bone density.  Regular exercise will give you more energy throughout the day, help you sleep better at night, and reduce stress. 

See a sample workout at Physical Activity for Everyone: Adding Physical Activity to Your Life | DNPAO | CDC

Stop smoking.

Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. Get help.  Tell family, friends, and co-workers that you’re going to quit and you need their support. Do things and go places where smoking isn’t allowed such as libraries, museums and shopping malls. Free telephone counseling is available through the Virginia Department of Health at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). Whatever you do, don’t give up. More information can be found on http://www.vdh.state.va.us/ofhs/prevention/tucp/quitNow.htm

Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new eating plan or exercise routine.

For more information on how to be heart healthy, go to:

http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/GettingHealthy_UCM_001078_SubHomePage.jsp

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dash/

4480 King Street
Alexandria, VA, 22302
703.746.4996
Fax: 703.746.4938
E-mail 

Office Hours:
Monday - Friday
8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Closed Thursday Mornings