Having A Healthy Heart

Having A Healthy Heart


By Adam DuPree, RD/LDN, Clinical Nutrition Manager

When you think of February, you most likely think of Valentine’s Day — but it’s also American Heart Month. The American Heart Association (AHA) states that “American Heart Month, a federally designated event, is an ideal time to remind Americans to focus on their hearts and encourage them to get their families, friends and communities involved.”

In honor of American Heart Month, let’s look at some common risk factors of heart disease and review lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your risk.

Heart disease is a general term for a group of diseases. This group includes atherosclerosis, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, stroke, heart attack, heart failure. While these may manifest in different ways, they share common risk factors and prevention methods. The top risk factors include:

  • Age (men older than 45, women older than 55)
  • Smoking
  • Genetics
  • High Blood Pressure or High Cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Diabetes
  • Alcohol
  • Poor Diet
  • Stress

Although two of the above are uncontrollable, the other eight can be influenced. Let’s examine ways to address poor diet, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

The best way to improve your diet is by increasing your consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish/seafood, and healthy fats. Healthy fats, specifically Omega 3 fatty acids, may come from fish like salmon or tuna, flaxseed, walnuts, and soybeans. Whole grains such as brown rice, wheat pasta, and popcorn can add fiber which may help to reduce cholesterol.

Adding more fruits and vegetables can also increase fiber but also adds many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are extremely beneficial.

Subsequently, decreasing saturated or trans fats, processed foods, and added sugar will have a positive impact as well. Preparation methods like baking, broiling, grilling, or steaming are an easy way to reduced saturated fat significantly compared to frying. Limiting desserts and sweetened beverages will considerably reduce added sugars that may contribute to obesity and diabetes.

Outside of food, the best way to manage your risk factors is to be physically active. Of the top 10 risk factors, regular exercise and physical activity can reduce up to half of them. Build up your activity gradually and incorporate it into your daily routine.