Well February is upon us and that means it is time to think about your heart health. Even if heart disease doesn't run in your family, taking the time and making you are making heart healthy choices can improve the quality of your life.
What is a heart healthy diet? A heart healthy diet is one that is low in animal fats and high in plant based fats. This also includes consuming fish on a regular basis. The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids found in fish have been associated with lower risks of heart disease. Consuming more a more plant based diet as also been found to help heart healthy and improve your body composition. People who were of normal body weight had less instance of heart-related medical complications and lived healthier lives overall. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has put together a great list of cooking changes that you can makes for your heart health. Make sure that you are limiting your saturated fats (from animal sources) and trans fats (man made fats, found in some margarine products). When cooking animal meats, make sure to drain off extra fat or grill the meat so that the fat falls away from the meat when cooking. If you consume high amounts of saturated (animal) fats this type of fat can build up in your arteries and this can lead to a blockage/heart attack. That is why a lower fat, more plant based diet is recommended.
Put down that salt shaker. In addition to watching the amount of fat in your diet, keeping an eye out for the amount of sodium in foods will go a long way in blood pressure control. If you have a history of hypertension, or if it runs in your family, then taking the time to watch your sodium intake can help keep your heart beating strong. Lots of fast food or pre-made, frozen entrees have a fair amount of added salt to help with the favor and preservation of the food. That is why when you can prepare meals at home, from scratch, that will go a long way in limiting the amount of added salt you consume each day. Make sure that you are not adding salt to your meals after they have been cooked. That is why moving the salt shaker off the table and into the spice cabinet can limit your added salt intake. If possible, purchase lower salt food items - low salt diced tomato or chicken stock, low salt lunch meat or sliced deli cheese. These little changes can help with your blood pressure control.
Move more. You can never under estimate the benefit of being physically active. Exercising helps your heart by having it beat harder and grow stronger. Your heart is a muscle and for it is stay strong it needs to be worked out. That means scheduling time to be physically active will help your heart to stay strong and continue to beat for a long time to come. Exercise can look different for different people. Find something that you enjoy and do that activity on a regular basis. If you enjoy exercise classes, find a gym and attend classes that you enjoy.
Hopefully you can take some of these tips and recommendations and put them into use this month to help show your heart some love!