HEALTH– Inflammation isn’t always a bad thing—it’s an effective tool that your body uses to get you to pay attention, whether to a blister or bursitis. But when inflammation becomes chronic, it goes beyond helpful.
In fact, numerous studies have found that it may play a serious role in a wide variety of diseases including heart disease and stroke.
The good news is? “The same practices that keep your heart in good shape can help you to reduce your chances of developing chronic inflammation and reduce inflammation already present: get regular exercise, improve sleep, don’t smoke, adequate hydration and eat right,” says registered nurse Constance Washington with VNSNY CHOICE Health Plans.
VNSNY CHOICE, a special plan from the not-for-profit Visiting Nurse Service of New York, was created especially for New York seniors who are eligible for Medicaid and/or Medicare and want to live independently in their own homes as they face the challenges of getting older, instead of moving into a nursing home.
“Many of the members I care for find eating healthy meals a challenge—especially those who live alone,” says Washington. “I spend time on the phone with each person and their personal care workers helping them better understand the importance of eating a balanced diet which is vital for good health and overall well-being. Personal Care Workers often help with grocery shopping and food preparation, which really helps members with adopting new and healthier habits.”
To reduce inflammation and improve health in general, here are four tips that Washington shares with her patients:
1) Up the Produce Factor
Shoot for two cups (or two pieces) of fruit and two to three cups of vegetables or more every day.
Those that are high in pigments called carotenoids – such as carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale & collard greens) – are particularly beneficial.
Deep red or purple grapes, berries and beets also are excellent choices, but all fruits and veggies will add to your anti-inflammation arsenal. According to a 2001 Harvard University study, just one extra serving a day can reduce your risk of heart disease by four percent.
2) Get Omega Smart
When it comes to fats, the right balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can help to reduce inflammation. How can you find the right balance? Washington says to cut back on processed and fast foods which can be high in omega-6’s and focus on increasing omega-3’s found in fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel, or vegetarian sources such as walnuts, almonds, flax seeds and cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts.
3) Eliminate Trans Fats
This type of fat is abundant in processed and fried foods. It increases foods shelf life and boosts flavor. However, it also clogs arteries, contributes to weight gain and causes inflammation. Avoid crackers, cookies or other packaged baked goods (or stay well within portion sizes) and limit fried foods or those made with hydrogenated oils.
To find delicious heart-healthy recipes for Quick Lasagna, Fruit Muffins, Oven Barbequed Chicken and other favorites, visit http://www.cooks.com/rec/
4) Go with the Grain
Whole grains are packed with compounds that can help protect against disease, and they’re teaming with B and E vitamins, minerals like iron and magnesium, and fiber—all of which are great at holding off inflammation and promoting cardiovascular health.
For more information about VNSNY CHOICE Health Plans from the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, please call 1-866-469-7774 or visit www.VNSNYCHOICE.org.