February is American Heart Month, a good reminder to have your ticker checked on an annual basis and practice healthy heart behavior all year long. In 2016, a study conducted by the American Heart Association revealed cardiovascular disease to be the “underlying cause of death,” for over 800,000 men and women in the US. While the statistics are staggering, the heart is actually a resilient little organ, it just needs regular TLC.
Weight, Life, Diet – The Healthy Heart Trifecta
Keeping your body in tip-top shape is important to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Genetics may play a small role in determining the future of your heart health, but the choices you make today can have an even greater impact…for better or worse.
Excess weight increases the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Remember, the goal is to achieve optimum weight for your particular age and body type. Start with low impact exercises like walking or cycling. Other activities to get you moving on a daily basis:
- Walk at least 3 or 4 times per week.
- Park farther away from the door while running errands.
- Use a standing desk to avoid being sedentary at work.
- During your walk, try brief periods of jogging.
- Take stairs instead of the elevator.
- Switch up your exercise routine to keep things interesting and challenging.
Losing weight and eating more fruits and veggies seem like no-brainers when it comes to heart health, but did you know there are other lifestyle modifications you can make to help you achieve your goals?
- Reduce salt intake
- Quit smoking
- Drink more water – Aids in digestion. Promotes weight loss. Boosts immune system.
- Avoid sugary beverages like soda, loaded coffee, and even some juice drinks.
- Reduce stress with meditation, yoga, or a relaxing hobby.
Modifying your diet may be the single most important decision you can make on the road to better heart health. By cutting back or eliminating high-fat and processed foods, and increasing the intake of low-fat, high protein, and whole grain options, your body will thrive. Instead of giving you a list of items you shouldn’t eat (if it’s fried, frosted, frozen, or fatty, there is a good chance it’s bad for you) we’ve provided a list of heart healthy foods you need to work into your diet immediately.
- Berries – Filled with flavonoids. Decrease blood pressure.
- Salmon – Omega-3 fatty acids lower the risk of irregular heart rhythm and plaque build-up.
- Tomatoes – High in potassium and lycopene.
- Oatmeal – Preferably steel cut. High in soluble fibers.
- Greens – Broccoli, spinach, kale
- Avocado – Healthy fat. Helps absorb other nutrients.
- Potatoes – Non-fried. Packed with potassium.