In addition to being the month of love, February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is responsible for around 1 in 4 deaths in the US each year. (https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm ) While the numbers are scary for Americans with heart disease, there are many things you can do to take care of your heart and reduce your risk of developing or worsening heart disease.
Six Tips for a Healthy Heart:
1. Add some healthy foods to your diet. Rather than focusing on foods to take out of your diet, start adding heart healthy foods to your plate. Ask yourself, “What can I add to this meal to help me meet my health goals?” The foods below are great for your heart, and your overall health. Consider adding more of these foods to your diet.
- Fruits and Vegetables – Fruits and veggies are great sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber! Try to make half of your plate fruits and veggies!
- Whole Grains – Whole wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole grain pasta are all examples of whole grains. Whole grains are great for the heart because they provide fiber. Fiber can help lower cholesterol. Try to have half of the grains you eat be whole grain foods!
- Plant based protein – Diets higher in plant based protein foods like beans, nuts, seeds, and soy have been correlated with reduced heart disease risk. Try having a few “meatless” meals per week, or adding beans and legumes to meals you regularly have.
- Healthy fats – Foods high in unsaturated fats, such as olives and olive oil, avocados, tuna, salmon, nuts and seeds, nut butters, and vegetable oils are better for your heart than foods high in saturated or trans fats (butter, cream, fatty meats, and shortening). For oils and fats, if it is liquid at room temperature, it’s good for your heart! Try having fish 1-2x/week, using avocado or olive oil for cooking, and trying vinaigrettes for salad dressing!
2. Avoid trans fats, excess added sugars, and excess alcohol. Typically when we focus on increasing healthy foods, we automatically cut back on the less healthy foods in our diet. However, avoiding trans fats, added sugars and sugary beverages, and drinking in moderation are important for heart health. Making an effort to decrease added sugars, and foods high in trans or saturated fats will only be good for your overall health, and your heart. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
3. Get moving! Physical activity is great for your heart. Increasing exercise can help with cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. Additionally, exercise is great for preventing diabetes, mental health, and maintaining strong muscles and bones through your lifetime. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of physical activity per week, or 30 minutes of activity 5 times per week. Find an exercise you enjoy, and spend more time doing it. Walking, swimming, hiking, biking, and skiing, are all just some examples of activities that are great for your heart!
4. Stop Smoking – If you use tobacco products or vape, quitting is probably the best thing you can do for your health. Talk to your doctor or the Montana Quit Line about resources that can help you quit!
5. Get those ZZZ’s – Getting 6-9 hours of quality sleep each night helps keep your heart healthy. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time most days, and avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime. If you snore or think you may have other risk factors for sleep apnea, discuss this with your doctor. Untreated sleep apnea can make many chronic conditions worse, including heart disease.
6. See your doctor(s) regularly, know your risk factors, and manage other chronic conditions. Many chronic diseases, like diabetes, can increase the risk of developing heart disease. When you are taking care of your other medical conditions, you are also taking care of your heart!
American Heart Association- www.heart.org
Diabetes Food Hub – www.diabetesfoodhub.org
MT Quitline – https://montana.quitlogix.org/en-US/ or 1-800-QUIT-NOW
Logan Health Heart & Lung
DEP Contact information, Cardiology Contact information
By: Jennifer Robey, RDN, LN, CDCES – Diabetes Care and Education Specialist