February is the month dedicated to the heart. It’s American Heart Month plus we have Valentine’s Day- so it’s a great time to commit to a healthy lifestyle and make small changes that can lead to a lifetime of heart health. Many of us know individuals that have been affected by heart disease or stroke. Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States claiming about 2,200 lives each day. So what can you do to take care of your heart? Two things you can do to ensure optimal heart health are to eat a heart healthy diet and exercise regularly.

So what is a heart healthy diet? A heart healthy diet is a well-balanced diet that promotes healthy weight, lower cholesterol levels, and good blood pressure. Changing your eating habits can be challenging, but small changes can make a big difference.

Here are some diet tips to jump start your way to a healthy heart:

Portion Control– Many people eat more than the recommended portion sizes. Eating large portions leads to consuming increased calories, fats, and cholesterol. Knowing the recommended portion sizes for different types of food is the first step to eating healthier.

Limit Saturated Fats and Cholesterol- The American Heart Association recommends less than 7% of an adults daily caloric intake be from saturated fats. It is also recommended that a healthy adult consume less than 300mg of cholesterol per day. An easy method for decreasing unhealthy fats is to choose monounsaturated fats when cooking such as olive oil or canola oil instead of butter, cream, or shortening.

Reduce Sodium in Your Diet- A diet that is high in sodium is linked to high blood pressure which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It is recommended that healthy adults consume less than 2,300mg of sodium. Try seasoning your food with spices instead of salt.

Eat Fruits and Veggies- Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and full of nutrients and fiber. Choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables when possible.

Choose Whole Grain- Whole grains are high in fiber and nutrients that support good health. The American Heart Association suggests that at least half of your daily grain servings be whole grains.

Tips for Getting Active:

  • If you have trouble finding 30 minutes to exercise, try splitting it up into smaller time frames. Exercising for 10 minutes at a time in multiple sessions is still beneficial
  • Walking is an easy way to start exercising regularly and it’s free!
  • When you go shopping or go into work, park further from the door. The extra steps you take lead you closer to a healthier heart
  • Workout with a buddy; having someone to workout with is fun and is a great motivator
  • Joining a gym offers a variety of workout options as well as classes to keep your interest

Making lifestyle changes is difficult; don’t get upset if you fall off the wagon occasionally, just make sure you get back on. Try your best and continually work to improve your diet and activity to promote a healthier heart!

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