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February is National Heart Month

Did you know that heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States? Thankfully, there’s something you can do about it. Studies have shown that both diet and exercise play a role in keeping your heart healthy.

As February is National Heart Month, it’s a good time to consider ways to be good to your heart.

What Are Some of The Causes Of Heart Disease?

Foods high in saturated and trans fats have been shown to contribute to both heart attacks and strokes. Foods high in saturated fats include chicken skin, beef, whole milk, cheese, tropical oils like coconut and palm oil, and butter. Trans fats can be found in margarine and many baked goods, such as cookies and cakes. You should eat these foods in moderation.Here are other risk factors that increase your chance of a stroke or heart attack. How many of them do you have?

  • smoking
  • high blood cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • physical inactivity
  • being overweight or obese

Getting Your Heart Healthy

It’s never too late to start getting your heart into good shape. Here are seven ways to do it:

#1: Stop smoking

If you want to change only one thing, do this!

#2: Reduce your blood cholesterol

It’s important to check your blood cholesterol levels every year.

#3: Lower your blood pressure

You can accomplish this by following a low-sodium diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising regularly.

#4: Be active

Research shows that you should aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days per week.

#5: Aim for a healthy weight

The best way to assess your weight is with the BMI (body mass index). It’s calculated using your height and weight. A BMI less than 25 is considered healthy; 25 to 29.9 signals that you’re overweight; and 30 or higher indicates obesity. You can move your BMI in the right direction by eating healthy foods and exercising.

#6: Drink alcohol in moderation

Drinking too much alcohol has been shown to raise blood pressure and contribute to obesity. Moderation is defined as one drink per day for women and two for men. A drink is considered to be 5 fluid ounces of wine, 12 fluid ounces of beer, or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof liquor. No, you can’t “save” all your drinks for Saturday night!

#7: Eat the right foods

Certain foods have been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease. These include:

  • Fatty fish. Fish like salmon and tuna are packed with omega-3 fats, which help lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Aim to eat fish at least twice a week.
  • Nuts. Almonds, cashews, and walnuts contain the antioxidant vitamin E, which helps reduce fatty deposits that clog arteries.
  • Oats. Studies have demonstrated that the soluble fiber found in oats helps lower total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.
  • Olive oil. Healthy oils like olive and peanut oil contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Be aware that all oils contain 120 calories per tablespoon—so use sparingly!
  • Berries. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries all contain a phytochemical called anthocyanin—a powerful antioxidant shown to protect the blood vessels.

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