With Valentine’s Day behind you, it’s easy to think days of red hearts are gone until next year. But did you know that February is American Heart Month? Cardiovascular diseases are the nation’s number one killer. This month, focus on these four little steps to cutting your risk in a big way.
Decrease the Fat
The fat found in butter, meat, and whole-fat dairy products should be first on your list of fats to cut back on, to no more than seven percent of your daily calories. If you’re going all out, try to completely eliminate transfats, which raise bad cholesterol levels and lower good cholesterol levels. No more than one percent of your daily calories should come from this kind of fat, found in margarine, fried foods, and many packaged pastries.
Eat More Plants and Fish
Pile on the colorful foods like spinach, tomato, blueberries, and pomegranates, with antioxidants whose anti-inflammatory effect on blood vessels reduces the risk of heart disease. Other fruits and veggies, like oranges, bananas, and mushrooms, are high in potassium which helps to regulate blood pressure. Fish like salmon, sardines, and rainbow trout add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet that work to decrease blood pressure.
Work It Out
No surprise here. Get moving. Exercise can decrease your “bad” cholesterol levels, raise your “good” cholesterol levels, and strengthen your most important muscle – your heart. Even an easy thirty minutes of walking a day can help strengthen your heart.
Know Your Risk
Perhaps the most important factor in preventing heart disease is knowing your risk. If you know the numbers, you are more likely to be proactive about your health. Your risks increase if women in your family under 65 and/or men under 50 have had heart disease. It also rises 17% if your father had heart disease, and 43% if your mother had heart disease. Checking in with your physician for your cholesterol levels, signs of diabetes, and blood sugar levels can help you get a more accurate idea of your risk. Think you are already pretty heart-health savvy? Put your knowledge to the test with these quizzes.