February marks the observance of American Heart Month (visit @American Heart). All of us can use this month to become better educated about heart disease and how to prevent it. Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States? Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease.
What are some of the choices we can make that can help us keep our hearts healthy? Here are some basic tips that can have a powerful effect:
- Eat a Heart-healthy Diet. Fill your plate with more fruits and vegetables in every color of the rainbow! Berries, in particular, are packed with phytonutrients and soluble fiber. Red, yellow and orange vegetables, such as carrots and peppers are chock full of carotenoids and vitamins that are good for your heart. Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber and other nutrients that play an important role in regulating blood pressure. Choose low-fat sources of protein including fish high in omega-3 such as salmon. Limit your intake of processed foods which can help reduce the amount of sodium that you consume.
- Be Active! Exercise is essential for good heart health. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise, 5 days a week. Find an activity that you enjoy so that you stay motivated. And because prolonged sitting can be bad for your heart, incorporate movement into every part of your daily routine. Choose a parking spot at the far end of the lot; take the stairs instead of the elevator; get into the habit of standing while talking on the phone. Make physical activity a priority.
- Stop Smoking. No ifs, ands or butts! Although most people associate cigarette smoking with breathing problems and lung cancer, smoking is a major cause of heart disease. Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to non-smokers. Even if you have tried to quit and failed in the past, TRY AGAIN! Most smokers that successfully give up cigarettes report that it took repeated attempts.
This February, commit to keeping your heart in great shape. Reap the benefits of a healthy heart and a happy life. Children learn by example so take the lead and be an example for them to follow; your family deserves it!