February is American Heart Month and a healthy heart makes for a perfect Valentine’s Day gift! This month is dedicated to help reduce the number of lives taken each year due to heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure. Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, accounting for roughly 1 in every third death.
National Wear Red Day is also celebrated in February and is used to bring awareness about how heart disease is the number one killer of women.
Fill your heart with love and knowledge this month by following these 10 heart healthy tips:
- Include Whole Grains, Fruits & Vegetables: Vegetables and fruits provide vitamins, minerals and fiber. Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables will help control weight and blood pressure. Whole-grain products contain healthy amounts of fiber, which helps control cholesterol levels. Fiber also keeps you feeling fuller longer, thereby aiding in weight management.
- Lower your intake of Saturated Fats and Cholesterol: According to the American Heart Association, a low fat and low cholesterol diet is recommended. When purchasing meat and poultry, choose meats that are labeled as “choice” or “select”, as they will have less fat than ones labeled “prime”. Examples of these include: sirloin and round cuts. Poultry is always a great option for a low-fat meat! In addition, choose meats with the least amount of visible fat (marbling).
- Choose Healthy Fats: Healthy fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, canola oil, and avocado along with fatty fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids. Eat fatty fish at least two times per week to lower blood triglycerides. These types of fish include salmon, mackerel and herring.
- Reduce your Sodium intake: Keep your sodium intake to no more than 2300 mg/day. Did you know 1 teaspoon of salt has 2300 mg of sodium? At home, limit your use of salt while cooking, and stay away from the salt shaker at the table. When in the grocery store, read food labels and choose foods that are “low sodium”, which means they have 140 mg per serving or less. Salt is routinely added to canned foods, frozen meals, cured meats, sauces, salad dressings and instant oatmeal, so be extra weary of these items.
- Reduce Added Sugar & Alcohol: Cutting back on foods and beverages with added sugar and limiting your alcohol intake can have beneficial effects on your heart health by promoting a healthier lifestyle.
- Follow these Heart Healthy Cooking Tips.
- Physical activity: Exercise is another important factor in preventing heart disease. It is recommended to exercise 30 minutes per day most days of the week, or every day at best.
- Manage your Stress: Stress management is different for everyone but it is important not to turn to food when you are stressed. Rather than binge eating on comfort foods turn to activities like yoga and meditation. Consider creating a vision board and be sure to include time to relax!
- Avoid smoking: Smoking is directly linked to heart disease. You increase your risk of developing heart disease with every cigarette. If you smoke, put a strategy in place to help you quit smoking.
- Visit your doctor: Get a checkup regularly with your physician to make sure your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are in check.
Preventing Heart Disease
You can protect your heart and the heart of those close to you. Get your community involved in making some heart healthy changes like:
- Adding more community trails that promote more physical activity in your neighborhood.
- Have schools provide quality physical education and healthy meal options.
- Ask your work cafeteria if they can provide more heart healthy options.
- Encourage workplaces and communities to be smoke-free.
Celebrate American Heart Month by choosing heart healthy foods and increasing physical activity.
Your turn to take action: What will you do this month to lower your risk of heart disease? Let me know in the comments below.