February is American Heart Month, the perfect time to learn about your risk for heart disease and the steps you need to take now to help your heart. Heart disease—and the conditions that lead to it—can happen at any age. Keep your heart in tip top shape with these simple suggestions from the American Heart Association:
- Focus on fiber.
Most U.S. diets are fiber deficient! You need at least 25 grams in a 2,000 calorie diet. Why is fiber so fabulous? Well, fiber can help lower cholesterol levels as well as your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. It’s also a helpful weight management tool because it makes you feel full after eating. Fiber-rich foods include whole grains, beans, legumes, fruits and veggies.
- Go unsaturated.
There are several different types of fats, but unsaturated fats are the healthiest for your heart because they help lower your cholesterol levels. Try incorporating foods rich in unsaturated fats like olive oil, nuts/seeds, avocados, and salmon.
- Eat Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean Diet has been recognized as one of the healthiest ways to eat because it emphasizes plant-based foods (i.e. fruits, vegetables, whole grains) and limits processed foods high in sodium and sugar. Easy ways to follow the Mediterranean diet include eating a plant-based food at every meal and snack and consuming fish and poultry instead of red meat like beef and pork.
- Fuel with fish.
Try to eat at least two servings of fish each week, especially fatty fish like salmon which contain omega-3 fatty acids to reduce your risk of heart disease. A serving of protein is 3-4 ounces cooked -the size of a deck of cards.
- Season with spice.
Excess sodium and sugar can increase your risk of heart disease. Swap the salt shaker and sugar spoon for spices like pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, and cinnamon, along with herbs, to add flavor to your foods.
- Move more/Sit less
The average person needs 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. If you don’t want to focus on the numbers, just move more! Even when you work out regularly, sitting for long periods throughout the day can put you at a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Include children.
So many people are at home these days, whether it is working from home or children in virtual school – so take time to get your kids moving. What could be more fun than hide and seek or tag with your little ones! You’re moving and getting some quality time.
- Intensify your routine.
As you adjust to being more active, gradually increase your time and/or intensity. A combo of moderate and vigorous activity is even more beneficial for your overall health.
- Have fun with it.
Choose an activity that you enjoy. When you have fun with what you do, you’re more likely to stick with it.