Nutrition can play a big role in preventing chronic conditions such as type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. “Several chronic conditions are related to diet,” says Dr. Sarah Kuruvilla, Assistant Professor at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler. “Common conditions include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and gout. When uncontrolled, some of these diseases can cause an increased risk of heart attacks or strokes.” While some risk factors such as gender and ethnicity are out of our control, what we eat is up to us.
Dr. Kuruvilla shares how eating well for your heart, sticking to natural foods and practicing moderation can all combine to significantly reducing the risk of chronic conditions.
Eat Like Your Heart Depends On It
Following nutrition recommendations for keeping your heart healthy will have a positive impact on your whole system. Accounting for your heart’s needs as you eat can be as simple as a few changes. “Dietary changes such as avoiding fried, greasy foods and opting for baked, boiled, steamed or grilled foods can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke,” shares Dr. Kuruvilla. “Choosing lean meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables over fast food, sugary foods, salty foods, red meats can help one make their diet healthier.”
In addition to making healthy swaps in your diet, it’s important to exercise at least 30 minutes per day, 4-5 days per week. Avoiding the use of alcohol or cigarettes also drastically reduces your risk of long-term complications such as cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Cut Through Confusion
The grocery store can be a sea of boxes and packaging labeled with confusing and even misleading information. Items containing words like “natural” and “fat free” are designed to make you think you are making a healthier choice, but can be on products that contain a long list of ingredients and additives. “It’s important to pay attention to nutrition labels and ingredients on food packages to gain a better understanding of whether a food is necessarily good or bad for you,” advises Dr. Kuruvilla. “Foods and beverages in their natural and whole form is usually a better option than heavily processed foods.” So if you’re feeling overwhelmed while browsing the grocery aisles, look at the ingredients list. The shorter, more natural, the better.
The Long-term Goal
It’s easy and sometimes even fun to go on short diets or cleanses, but ultimately, the only thing that will work is a plan you can stick to. “Portion control and everything in moderation is key because it needs to be a lifestyle change,” says Dr. Kuruvilla. “Avoiding fried, salty and greasy foods and “junk food” would be important and beneficial; but, I think being mindful of your daily food choices is more important. Make healthier lifestyle choices a part of a routine, as opposed to a chore." Make new recipes, keep a food journal or try going to the farmer’s market to find ways to make healthier choices also be fun choices.
Learning and developing ways to make healthier nutrition choices can not only make you feel better, it will also help prevention of chronic conditions. “Making mindful, healthy lifestyle choices through your diet, activity and daily lifestyle make a big impact on one’s health,” reminds Dr. Kuruvilla. “It’s important to manage stress in a healthy manner, incorporate exercise, follow a healthy diet, stay positive, have fun and not get discouraged if you hit a plateau with your weight or lifestyle. It’s all about making small changes that will make for a healthier you for a lifetime, which is the ultimate goal!”
Sarah Kuruvilla, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician, who sees patients of all ages at UT Health East Texas Physicians Patriot Drive. “I love being able to serve, work, put my patients at ease and develop a rapport with my patients, along with their families enabling and empowering them to address and care for their healthcare needs.”
It’s important to Dr. Kuruvilla to create relationships with her patients. “I enjoy partnering with patients of all ages to educate and encourage lifelong health by making healthy choices while also helping them and their family take control of their health. Being able to serve the community and make a difference in patients’ lives is truly gratifying. With compassion and care, I strive to provide my patients with excellent medical care that I would want my own family members to receive from a medical provider.”