Wellness: Give Your Heart Some Love

February 2014Heart made of vegetables

You may know February for the month to treat your sweetheart, but don't forget it's also American Heart Month, so give your own heart some extra love.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. But the good news is many of these deaths and risk factors are preventable. While age, gender and family history cannot be controlled, you can prevent and control high cholesterol, high blood pressure, excess weight and obesity with lifestyle changes, medications and healthful eating.

Healthy food choices and an active lifestyle can have a big impact on your heart's health. Just a few steps and you can be on your way to a healthier heart:

  • Regular, moderate physical activity lowers blood pressure and helps your body control stress and weight. Be physically active in your own way. Start by doing what you can, at least 10 minutes at a time. Always check with your physician before beginning a workout regimen.

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. One good goal is to fill half your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables at every meal.

  • Eat less salt by preparing foods at home so you can control the amount of salt in your meals. As you prepare meals, use as little salt as possible. You can cut at least half the salt from most recipes. As you shop, select reduced-sodium or no-salt-added canned soups and vegetables.

  • Eat whole grains.

  • Regularly eat fatty fish like salmon, lake trout, albacore tuna (in water, if canned), mackerel and sardines.

  • Eat fewer foods with saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and refined grains.

Talk to your doctor to find out if you are at high risk for heart disease. If you need help with your healthful eating, consult a registered dietitian who can build a nutrition plan that fits your lifestyle and needs. For more tips on a heart-healthy diet and information on reducing your risk for heart disease, visit www.eatright.org/hearthealth.