It’s February, and love is in the air with Valentine’s Day flowers, candy, and hearts everywhere. It’s a time to think about the people we love. It’s also American Heart Month! What a perfect time to show yourself some love, and take good care of your heart!
It’s a scary fact that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. High cholesterol and high blood pressure can lead to heart attack and stroke, and over 92 million Americans have some form of heart disease.
Some risk factors for heart disease can’t be controlled, like gender, age, and family history. The good news is that lifestyle choices, like what you eat and how active you are, can be controlled, and a healthy lifestyle can have a positive effect on your heart health. Even small changes for the better can improve your heart health and reduce your overall risk for heart disease.
A healthy lifestyle includes: following a healthy eating plan, getting regular physical activity, not smoking, and managing your stress. Here are some tips for a heart healthy lifestyle:
- Limit saturated and trans fats.
- Reduce sodium intake.
- Cut back on added sugars.
- Control portion sizes.
- Increase physical activity.
Remember to make half your plate fruits and vegetables; they are low in calories, high in fiber, and loaded with nutrients and antioxidants. Choose lean cuts of meat and low-fat or fat-free dairy, and try to eat fish twice per week while limiting butter and cheese intake. Reduce your sodium intake by eating fewer processed and packaged foods, and be aware that food from fast food chains and most restaurants is usually high in sodium. Try to limit sugar-sweetened drinks like soda and sweet tea, and when you buy foods like cereal and yogurt, look for options that are lower in sugar. Aim for some kind of physical activity most days of the week. Walking is a great form of exercise that can help promote heart health and prolong your life.
Good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle play big roles in keeping your heart healthy. By making small lifestyle changes, you can make a big difference in your risk for heart disease and improve your quality of life.