Valentines Day isn’t the only holiday in February. It’s also American Heart Month, which helps raise awareness of heart disease and prevention. Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, we should all be interested in healthy lifestyle choices we can make to protect our hearts. Thankfully, showing your heart some love means eating smart, moving more, and slimming down, the same lifestyle choices that help to protect against diabetes and breast cancer.
Eat Heart Smart
What does a Heart-Healthy diet look like? MyPlate! Nourish your heart with a balanced diet that features plenty of:
- Whole Grains
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Lean Proteins (especially plant-based proteins)
- Low-Fat Dairy
- Healthy Fats (especially nuts and seeds)
The DASH Diet in particular has been shown to be especially good for your heart. The DASH Diet is very similar to MyPlate’s recommendations with an even greater emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plant-based proteins, nuts, and seeds, while limiting sodium, sweets, and animal protein foods.
Move More to Get Your Heart Pumping
Being active helps keep your heart in shape. It’s called cardio for a reason! Any amount of activity is better than none, but getting 30 minutes a day is recommended for good health. If you’re just starting out with moving more, build up slowly until you hit the goal. If you are a regular exerciser, getting up to 90 minutes a day has even more health benefits.
In addition to structured exercise, sitting less throughout the day is helpful for keeping your heart healthy, too. Think of ways to take quick activity breaks, like a walk around the office, a few quick squats, or some light stretching, for every hour or two of sitting. Find ways to walk more when running errands, like parking further away or taking the stairs. All of these small activities add up to a big benefit to our health.
Slim Down to Give Your Heart a Break
Carrying around extra weight is hard on your heart, making it work harder than it should to pump blood around the body. Being at a healthy weight is best, but losing even 5-7% of your bodyweight (just 9-12 pounds for a 175 pound person) is good for your heart health.
If you’re making progress in eating smart and moving more, you’ll likely be slimming down, too. If not, try keeping a food diary and using MyPlate’s Supertracker to see where your diet and physical activity could use a bit more improving.
This Valentines Day, be kind to your heart. Dark chocolate is a great option for a sweet treat that fits into a balanced diet. Plan an active date with your sweetheart, like a winter hike or trip to the roller rink for an old-school couples skate. Get creative to find ways to live heart healthy, this month and throughout the year.