When it comes to implementing heart-healthy foods into your diet, numerous nutritionists, fads and research studies may influence your choices. From diets that stress high meat consumption to those that allow participants to eat large amounts of sodium, there are many dietary trends that may be more hype than help, according to cardiologist Dean Ornish.
Responding to arguments presented by a new book that instructs readers that fatty foods are not bad for the heart, Ornish recently spoke to AARP about how people should exercise extreme caution when hopping on diet bandwagons. Ornish developed a healthy living program that encourages people to eat low-fat foods while monitoring their stress and physical activity levels, as he believes these are key for maintaining mental, cardiovascular and physical health.
Monitoring your picks with precision
According to the cardiologist, people should not adopt new diets they read about in the media without exercising common sense.
"I would love to be able to tell people they can eat what they want and they'll live a long, healthy life, but it's just not true," Ornish told AARP. "It started with Bob Atkins and then Gary Taubes and now Nina Teicholz. People would love to hear that butter and steak are health foods, but they're not. They're just not."
Instead of purchasing meats, cheeses and breads replete with high levels of fat, Ornish instead recommends that people stick with low-fat choices, such as lean meats, vegetables and fruits that can provide essential nutrients to the body. But food is not the only important ingredient for leading a healthy lifestyle - Ornish stressed that exercise and mental health are equally important.
Tips for healthy living
In addition to providing insight about avoiding foods high in fat, Ornish explained seven key strategies all people - especially older adults - should follow to lead the healthiest lives possible. These tips include:
- Be aware of what you're eating
- Opt for healthier ingredients
- Search for small ways to get exercise
- Meditate for a few minutes each day
- Volunteer every once in a while
- Spend time with family and friends
One of the most important suggestions he made to the source was that people should take a look at their lifestyles as a whole - not as individual parts.
"What matters most is your overall way of eating and living," Ornish said to AARP. "If you indulge one day, that doesn't mean you cheated or you're bad or you failed. Just try to be healthier the next day."
For seniors living in retirement communities who are looking to improve their overall heart health, the American Heart Association also suggested seven simple ways to lead healthier lives. Among the AHA's guidelines are monitoring health levels - such as cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose - remaining active, eating better and stopping smoking.