Alicia Christians, RDN, LD
Happy February! February is well-known for the month of Valentine’s Day, love, friendships, and everything that is colored pink and red – including one of our most precious parts of the body – our heart! The American Heart Association determined the month of February to be American Heart Month in order to raise awareness for heart disease and other heart-related conditions. (1)
Heart disease is the current leading cause of death in the United States. (2) Many causes of heart disease are preventable and can be managed with simple lifestyle changes. Gender, age, and family history are three factors that can put someone at a higher risk for heart disease, but unfortunately cannot really be changed or managed in order to reduce risk. High blood pressure and high blood cholesterol are two conditions that greatly increase a person’s risk for developing heart disease. Fortunately, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are two conditions that can actually be lowered, or even reversed, with a switch to a healthier lifestyle!
During American Heart Month, focus on improving your overall heart health. Here are 5 simple tips that can help get you started!
1) Fill Your Plate with Heart Healthy Options
A healthy heart starts with a healthy plate! Aim to fill the majority of your plate with nutritious foods to improve your overall health such as vegetables, beans, fruits, healthy fats, and whole grains. (3) These types of foods can help to lower your blood cholesterol and your blood pressure which can improve your overall heart health. (1)
2) Get Moving!
Regular exercise or physical activity is a great way to improve your heart health! Getting the body moving not only helps to manage your weight, but serves as a fun way to lower blood pressure and relieve stress – both things that can lower your risk for developing heart disease in the future. (3) Keep in mind that what you choose to do to keep active should be enjoyable to you, and there are many different ways to keep active from dancing or walking to yoga or biking! All it takes is finding what you enjoy to do and making it a part of your daily healthy lifestyle.
3) Drop Unhealthy Habits
An unhealthy habit such as cigarette smoking as been shown to greatly increase risk for developing heart disease. (3) This tip boils down to the fact that if you are a current smoker, you should quit. Many resources exist to help people quit smoking, and several workplaces are now developing quit programs or offering incentives for their workers who successfully quit smoking. Be sure to check out and use all of the resources available to you!
4) Limit Added Salt and Saturated Fats
Cutting back on salt and saturated fats when cooking is another way to further improve the health of your heart. (3) Buying lower-sodium or “no added salt” foods at the grocery store and cooking meals with salt-free herbs and spices instead of table salt are 2 easy and quick ways to lower your salt intake. As for choosing healthier fats, saturated fats – or fats thought to increase risk for heart disease – generally are going to be solids at room temperature. A good, general rule-of-thumb is to choose more fats and oils that are liquids at room temperature as those will typically contain lesser amounts of saturated fat. (4)
5) Give Your Doctor a Visit!
Making healthy choices at home and work to improve your heart health is a job well-done, but part of a heart healthy lifestyle also includes an annual trip to your doctor. Ensuring that year-after-year your heart (and the rest of your body!) is in tip-top shape is important. Your doctor will be able to listen to your heart, check your blood pressure, check your blood cholesterol and more. If there were to be any concern or risk for heart disease, your doctor is the one to find it so it’s important to give your doctor a visit each year!
This American Heart Month, and all year long, work toward making healthy lifestyle changes using our expert tips! For more tips, recipes, and exercise inspiration, visit livea.com. Your heart will thank you!