February celebrates National Heart Health month as well as Valentine’s day!  This is the perfect time for you take inventory of your heart health. Did you know that according to the American Heart Association heart disease is the leading cause of death in America(2)?  The good news is there are seven simple heart healthy lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent heart disease and lead a longer, healthier life.


LIFE’S SIMPLE SEVEN (2)


1. NUTRITION

Eating balanced meals made up of quality, nutrient dense food is the best way to ensure adequate vitamin, mineral and fiber intake.

PROTEIN – Choose low saturated fat protein from organic lean meats, fish, eggs, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds.

FAT – Include quality fats including coconut oil, ghee and extra virgin olive oil.  Avoid inflammatory fats from canola oil, safflower oil, vegetable, corn and soybean oils.

CARBOHYDRATES – Consume complex carbohydrates from a variety of mostly organic vegetables, fruits and some non-gluten grains such as quinoa, rice, millet and buckwheat.

Heart healthy recipe websites: https://recipes.heart.org/ eatingwell.com vegetariantimes.com


2. EXERCISE: GET ACTIVE!

Exercise has numerous benefits for our bodies including the heart. Studies show that the heart health benefits of exercise include: lowers blood pressure, strengthens the heart muscle, reduces stress hormones, helps control cholesterol(3).

TIPS
The AHA recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise per week.
Move more, sit less! Set a timer for every hour to get up and stretch or take a short walk. Also try standing while on your computer instead of sitting. Any activity is better than none.


3. MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT

Excess weight can place a burden on your entire body especially your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton. If you aren’t sure what a healthy weight for yourself is, ask your doctor or nutritionist for help(2).


4. CONTROL CHOLESTEROL

Cholesterol is a necessary fat like substance found in every cell of your body. Your body uses cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids which help you to digest the food you eat. High cholesterol is usually caused by poor diet, smoking, or heredity and can lead to fatty blockages in your arteries causing loss of blood flow, and risk for a heart attack. Be sure to get your cholesterol checked from you doctor once a year(4).


5. MAINTAIN BLOOD SUGAR BALANCE

High blood sugar levels are commonly associated with risk of developing diabetes, but it is also just as risky for developing heart disease. In general, foods that increase your blood sugar are high in carbohydrates, which are quickly converted to sugar. Some examples include bread, pasta, sugary drinks, pastries, rice, and French fries. Since having high blood sugar is typically asymptomatic, you should also ask your doctor to check this for you every year(2).


6. QUIT SMOKING

Smoking damages nearly every organ in the body including your heart. It is a major cause of heart disease by damaging the lining of your arteries which can lead to a build-up fatty material; otherwise known as atherosclerosis. Over time, the arteries narrow, and blood supply is limited to your heart and other organs in your body(2).


7. MANAGE BLOOD PRESSURE

High blood pressure is a major risk for heart disease. It puts added strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys. Be sure you’re aware of what your blood pressure is. Your doctor can check your blood pressure, but many pharmacies have free blood pressure machines available to the public(2).


Wishing You a Heart-Healthy and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Michelle Solis, Corporate Nutritionist


References

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sweet-dreams-eating-chocolate-prevents-heart-disease-201506168087
  2. www.heart.org
  3. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/heart_vascular_institute/clinical_services/centers_excellence /womens_cardiovascular_health_center/patient_information/health_topics/exercise_heart.html
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/cholesterollevelswhatyouneedtoknow.htm