February is National Heart Health Month. As parents, we are constantly taking care of our children, our homes and our financial obligations. Often, we overlook taking care of ourselves. Taking care of our health is something that must be on our daily to-do lists. Although our lives are busy, being healthy will only give us more energy to be more productive!
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in American women. Caring for your heart through a healthy diet and regular physical activity is the best weapon to preventing heart disease. By choosing the right foods, you can lower your risk of disease and promote overall health.
Fruits and Vegetables
- Fruits and vegetables are not only low in calories and high in dietary fiber and antioxidants, they also can help keep blood pressure in check. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
- For most adults, aiming for at least two cups of whole fruit and three cups of vegetables daily, is a good way to make sure you’re meeting your goals.
- The type of fats you eat can also make a difference. A diet high in saturated fat may increase the risk for heart disease. Foods such as bacon, sausages, fatty meats, butter, ice cream and other full-fat dairy foods can be high in saturated fat.
- Replace sources of saturated fat with unsaturated fats. This has been shown to reduce “bad” or LDL cholesterol levels and may help lower the risk for heart disease. Foods such as olive oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts and seeds contain unsaturated fat.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are a special type of unsaturated fat commonly found in fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and herring. They also are found in walnuts and flaxseed. Fish is a good source of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Nuts and seeds contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Because all these foods contain different types of omega-3 fatty acids, it is good to include a variety in the diet.
Weight Loss for Heart Health
- If your body mass index (BMI) is considered to be overweight or obese, gradual weight loss offers the best results for overall health. Even a 5-10% loss in body weight can help reduce blood pressure and lead to other improvements in health.
- Regular physical activity is also beneficial. Get at least 30 minutes of regular activity most days of the week.
Check out my previous post for more information on cardiovascular health!