• 64°

February is American Heart Health Month

BY CAROLYN BIVINS

 

February is often considered the month of love, with couples and family members sending heart emojis, heart-themed cards and heart-shaped chocolates. But what’s a better gift to your loved ones than taking care of your heart?

February is American Heart Health Month. And while you might first think of it as routine campaign — it’s becoming more important than ever. Cardiovascular or heart disease is the leading cause of death in women and men, with obesity and diabetes, which increase a persons’ risk of heart attack and stroke, on the rise.

While the statistics are alarming, don’t panic. Research shows that lifestyle changes can greatly reduce your risk. Here’s what you need to know:

Heart-healthy diet: 12 steps to prevent heart disease

  1. Control your portion size. How much you eat is just as important as what you eat. Overloading your plate, taking seconds and eating until you feel stuffed can lead to eating more calories than you should. Portions served in restaurants are often more than anyone needs. Use a 9” small plate or bowl to help control your portions. Eat larger portions of low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and smaller portions of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, such as refined, processed or fast foods
  2. Make half your plate veggies and fruits. Vegetables and fruits are full of nutrients that support good health. Choose fruits and red, orange, and dark-green vegetables such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.
  3. Include whole grains. Aim to make at least half your grains whole grains. Look for the words “100% whole grain” or “100% whole wheat” on the food label. Whole grains provide more nutrients, like fiber, than refined grains.
  4. Don’t forget the dairy. Complete your meal with a cup of fat-free or low-fat milk. You will get the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk but fewer calories. Don’t drink milk? Try a soy beverage (soymilk) as your drink or include low-fat yogurt in your meal or snacks.
  5. Add lean protein. Choose protein foods such as lean beef, pork, chicken, or turkey, and eggs, nuts, beans, or tofu. Twice a week have fish, is another good alternative to high-fat meats. And certain types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood fats called triglycerides make seafood the protein on your plate. You’ll find the highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring. The highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids are in cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines
  6. Avoid extra fat. Using heavy gravies or sauces will add fat and calories to otherwise healthy choices. Try steamed broccoli with a sprinkling of low-fat parmesan cheese or a squeeze of lemon.
  7. Get creative in the kitchen. Whether you are making a sandwich, a stir-fry, or a casserole, find ways to make them healthier. Try using less meat and cheese, which can be higher in saturated fat and sodium, and adding in more veggies that add new flavors and textures to your meals.
  8. Take control of your food. Eat at home more often so you know exactly what you are eating. If you eat out, check and compare the nutrition information. Choose options that are lower in calories, saturated fat, and sodium.
  9. Try new foods. Keep it interesting by picking out new foods you’ve never tried before, like mango, lentils, quinoa, kale, or sardines. You may find a new favorite! Trade fun and tasty recipes with friends or find them online.
  10. Satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy way. Indulge in a naturally sweet dessert dish—fruit! Serve a fresh fruit salad or a fruit parfait made with yogurt. For a hot dessert, bake apples and top with cinnamon
  11. Drink plenty of liquids. With age, you may lose some of your sense of thirst. Drink water often. Lowfat or fat-free milk or 100% juice also helps you stay hydrated. Limit beverages that have lots of added sugars or salt. Learn which liquids are better choices.
  12. Everything you eat and drink matters. The right mix of foods in your meals and snacks can help you be healthier now and into the future. Eating fresh foods and making your own soups and stews can reduce the amount of salt you eat.  Turn small changes in how you eat into your MyPlate, MyWin!  Source:  ChooseMyPlate.gov; DG TipSheet No. 7, Revised, 2016; Everyday Solutions; AHA/