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Today on The Pulse View All

Latest diet advice issued today by nutrition experts

We would like to introduce Suzie Sodium. She is a registered dietitian who is regularly posting content and updates over at www.sodiumbreakup.heart.org.

She is bringing us some breaking news today, so take it away Suzie!

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In the American Heart Association’s quest to help Americans build healthier lives, promoting healthy eating habits is a key strategy. Because nutrition recommendations are based on the best evidence available, they shift over time. As we gather more evidence and use new research techniques, we get an increasingly clearer picture of what a healthy diet should look like.
 
One of the most important sources of nutrition guidance for our country is the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). By law, this document is updated every 5 years. It is jointly published by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA). The DGAs give us advice about what to eat for optimal health, according to the latest science.

The DGAs are used for much more than just educating the public about healthy eating. They help the federal government set nutrition standards for school meals, child care centers, and food assistance programs. Federal food and nutrition education programs are based on the DGAs. They also impact the information provided by nutrition facts panels and other nutrition labeling on food packages. Doctors, dietitians, and other healthcare providers use the guidelines as the basis for the nutrition guidance they provide to patients. As you can see, the guidelines have a broad impact.

So how do these guidelines come to be? In the first stage of the process, the government appoints a committee of the nation’s top experts in nutrition and chronic disease prevention. This group is called the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The committee reviews the previous edition of the DGAs as well as any new evidence that’s been published in the meantime. They also hear from expert guest speakers and consider oral and written comments from the public. The committee then writes a scientific report with its recommendations and submits it to the federal government.

Today, the committee’s report to the federal government was released to the public. The report emphasized an overall healthy eating pattern with lower levels of salt, saturated fat, and added sugars than Americans’ current diets. It described a healthy eating pattern as rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish/seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in non- and low-fat dairy products and alcohol; lower in red and processed meats; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains (i.e., grains that are stripped of some of their nutrients and thus are not whole grains). Overall, the American Heart Association says that the report’s recommendations are a shift in the right direction, and if accepted by HHS and USDA, will help steer the public toward a more heart-healthy path in their daily diets.

Over the rest of this year, HHS and USDA will use the advisory committee’s science report to create the final 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They will also consider comments from others in the government and from the public as they develop the final report. Stay tuned to learn more about what the final guidelines will say, and what they will mean for your food choices.

Do government nutrition guidelines influence the food choices you make for yourself or your family?

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National Congenital Heart Awareness Week is February 7 - 14

Has your life been touched by heart disease? Most of us can think of a family member or friend with heart disease but how heart breaking when the person impacted is a newborn. That’s right, congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect and the leading killer of babies with birth defects. The good news is there is hope thanks to a simple test called pulse oximetry which is done before a baby leaves the hospital and can lead to early detection.

The American Heart Association is proud to help raise awareness and has partnered with national patient groups, families, and community leaders to make sure heart defect screening using pulse ox is required in all states. Over 35 states have already passed laws, or are in the process, requiring newborns to have pulse ox screenings prior to being discharged from the hospital. But we won’t stop until all newborns have access to this lifesaving test!

Baby Jovie is proof that pulse ox can save lives. The Smith family was one of the first to benefit from the new law in North Carolina and baby Jovie's heart defect was found before she ever left the hospital. She had heart surgery and now at three months old is already off of medications and her doctors are very optimistic about her prognosis. To honor out littlest heart heroes help spread the word and tell your legislator to support pulse oximetry testing for all newborns.

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Watch You’re the Cure advocates and get the latest AHA advocacy updates.

Advocate Stories View All

Ariel Walker Ohio

At 19, my life was totally normal for a college student.  Eat, sleep, class, repeat.  And then one day, my heart quit beating.  I was giving a final presentation in front of a class full of people when everything went dark.  When I woke up, I was on the floor with a paramedic looking at me.

It took almost 4 years to diagnose what had caused me to pass out.  I was lucky.  I had a mother who had worked in a hospital for 25 years, and a supportive partner who drove me four hours each direction every couple of weeks for tests.  For such a dramatic event, it was extremely difficult to convince doctors that anything was wrong with me.  I passed every test.  Most appointments ended with the explanation that I was probably passing out because I was thin and therefore probably not eating enough. 

However, with my mom’s stubbornness and understanding of the heath care system, I was able to get an appointment with a cardiologist who was willing to send me for a tilt-table test.  I laid strapped flat to a table for an hour and then they flipped me vertically to see what would happen.   As everyone waited to see if I would pass out, the surgeon suggested that if I switched my snacks to salted peanuts and Gatorade, I would probably be fine.  I don’t remember much after that because I did pass out, and my heart stopped beating. 

I had cardio-inhibitory vasovagal syncope and I would need a pacemaker to keep me from passing out in the future.  A million things raced through my mind, the first of which was relief… I finally had a diagnosis.  The second was, would I ever look good in a bikini with a pacemaker implanted in my chest.  A month later, I was in surgery: the only 24 year-old on the cardiology schedule. 

My surgery was not easy.  It was supposed to be less than 24 hours in the hospital and I ended up there for three days.  My body was going into shock every time the pacemaker tried to pace my heart.  I was sent for x-rays in a wheelchair and brought back in a gurney because I kept losing consciousness.  It was terrifying.  Not for me so much, I was just exhausted. But for my family who had to watch helplessly, it was a nightmare. 

What I didn’t realize at the time, and what is impossible to explain to someone who has never been in such a situation, is that I not only became aware of a problem that day, I also lost the ability to trust that my heart would ever beat the way it was supposed to.  We don’t think about our lungs allowing us to breathe or our heart pumping our blood. It just happens.  I can’t explain the sense of loss, or the fear that develops of your own body, but I can encourage people not to take it for granted. 

I am now on my second pacemaker and, although that surgery wasn’t easy either, I live a healthy and active life with my amazing husband and two dogs.  To give back, I also joined the Board of Directors for my local American Heart Association so that I can encourage others to live well and take care of their hearts.  A coronary event can happen to anyone, at any stage of life.  It is important to pay attention to what your body is telling you and seek a doctor’s care whenever your heath circumstances change.  Treat your heart with care and never take it for granted.

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