Start Giving Your Heart Some TLC For American Heart Month
by Tracey Pollack
The month of February is devoted to giving our hearts. This makes it the perfect time to give your own heart a hand by reducing your risk of heart disease. Join us as we celebrate American Heart Month and make a promise to yourself to take better care of your heart. Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States? Fortunately, it’s also completely preventable by making some lifestyle changes. And be assured that it’s never too late to start taking your heart-health to heart. To lower your risk of heart disease, you can’t beat these heart-smart ideas.
- Eat to Beat Heart Disease
An unhealthy diet can eat away at the health of your heart. Simply enjoying healthier foods can dramatically reduce your risk of developing heart disease. If you think that a heart-smart diet will be pretty hard to swallow, think again. Heart-healthy eating is absolutely delicious. Just fix your meals and fill your plate with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lower-fat dairy products, lean meats and poultry, fish, nuts and beans. And be sure to choose low-sugar snacks instead of overly-sweet treats. Get a taste of heart-healthy eating and you’ll keep going back for more.
- Shake Off Salt with a Low-Salt Diet
Salt is surprisingly sneaky and hides in more foods than you think. But don’t let the thought of a low-salt diet dash your hopes of enjoying your meals. You just need to make a few simple swaps and some tasty switches. Replace salt with a salt-free substitute. Spice up the flavor of foods with fresh herbs, spices, lemon or vinegar. Choose lower-sodium cheeses or use small amounts of a sharp-flavored cheese. Cut down on condiments, sauces and cured meats like ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, sauerkraut, soy sauce, ham, sausage and bacon. Try to eat fewer salty snacks like chips, pretzels, pickles and salted nuts. By giving a low-salt diet a fair shake, you’ll savor a healthier heart.
- Avoid Bad Fats for Good
Let’s chew the fat about fats. While dietary fat is an important part of a healthy diet, you need to know the good from the bad because choosing the right kinds of fats can help reduce your risk for heart disease. The bad guys are known as trans fats and saturated fats. Trans fats are hiding in cookies, cakes, crackers, fried foods, stick margarine, pie crusts and frozen pizzas. Meanwhile, saturated fats lurk in meat products, poultry skin, eggs, high-fat dairy and palm oil. The good guys are the unsaturated fats, which include polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are found in fatty fish, flaxseeds and walnuts. And you’ll find monounsaturated fats in olive oil, canola oil, olives, avocados, nuts and seeds. By swapping these good fats for the bad, you can you lower your cholesterol and decrease your heart disease risk. These are some really good reasons to take bad fats off the table.
- Move More
Along with trimming down your body and bringing down your blood pressure, physical activity will help shape up your heart. While even just 15 minutes of light exercise a day can help lower your risk of heart disease, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five times a week. Be sure to select an activity you enjoy, such as walking, jogging, biking, tennis or dancing. To help you stay accountable and make exercise more social, sign up for a class or ask a friend to join you. No matter how you choose to be active, your workout will work out to a much healthier heart.
- Stop Smoking…No Ifs, Ands or “Butts”
Don’t let your heart health go up in smoke. Medical experts warn that smoking greatly increases your risk of heart disease. If you’re a smoker, the best thing to do for both your heart and your health is quit. As soon as you break the bad habit, you’ll start to lower your risk of heart disease. Whether you smoke or not, it’s also very important to avoid second-hand smoke—someone else’s habit can do damage to your health.
Celebrate American Heart Month by putting your heart into your health and using these healthy tips to protect yourself from heart disease.