Dear Fitness Coach,
I don't want to end up like my dad, who died of a heart attack at 47. I am working toward a healthier lifestyle: exercising when I can and trying to eat better. I am going to cut down on salt and coffee. What else should I be doing?
Heart Healthy Hank
Dear Heart Healthy,
Kudos to you on your proactive approach: avoiding cardiovascular disease through lifestyle changes will not only help you avoid a heart attack but other chronic metabolic diseases as well.
Exercise is very important, and something you need to make a priority. Schedule it in, like you would a doctor’s appointment or your son’s hockey game. Three hours a week is all you need to improve your baseline level of physical fitness.
Eating healthy is equally as important. Eliminating processed carbs from your diet and reducing your sodium intake (if you use excessive amounts) will head you in the right direction. Your morning cup of Joe, however, is something you do not have to give up. In fact, recent research shows that moderate caffeine consumption is actually good for you.
Caffeine’s scientifically proven benefits include increasing your endurance so you can exercise longer, decreasing the cortisol (stress) hormone, boosting overall strength, sharpening your focus and even improving your memory. In addition, emerging research suggests it can contribute to reduced risk of heart failure and even certain types of cancer.
A word of caution: Just be careful about what you add to your cup: a 6-ounce cup of black coffee contains just 7 calories. Add some half and half, and you'll get 46 calories. If you flavor with a liquid nondairy creamer, that will set you back 48 calories. A teaspoon of sugar will add about 23 calories. A Caffe Mocha at Starbucks will add 174 calories to your daily intake. A McDonald’s Large Mocha is a whopping 400 calories with 14 grams of fat - more calories and fat than a cheeseburger!