We all know February is the month for love, hearts and flowers. But did you know it is also Healthy Heart Month? It makes sense to me. There is a lot of stuff out there about eating right these days. But I believe The American Heart Association guidelines are a good way to help us keep our hearts in the best shape. So I've decide to share it with you.
Watch your weight
Don’t get caught up in the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet hype. The best way to maintain a healthy weight is to consume the right number of calories (from healthful foods) for your age, size and lifestyle. Familiarize yourself with the calorie contents of foods and what “reasonable” portions look like.
Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise (e.g., brisk walking) nearly every day. If you can’t devote 30 minutes all at once, break it up into 10-minute intervals.
Eat your vegetables—and fruits
Research links diets rich in fruits and vegetables with a lower risk for heart disease. Eat a variety, focusing on deeply colored vegetables and fruits (e.g., spinach, carrots and berries). They tend to be more nutritious than paler picks (e.g., potatoes and corn).
Fill up on fiber
Eat 25 to 30 grams of total fiber daily. There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Research shows that soluble fiber, found in oats, beans, barley and citrus, helps reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. Studies suggest that insoluble fiber—found in whole-wheat breads and cereals and vegetables—also helps protect your heart. Fiber extends the time food stays in your stomach, which may help you feel full for longer on fewer calories.
Hold the (unhealthy) fats
Keeping a cap on saturated fats, trans fats and dietary cholesterol helps reduce risk of heart disease primarily by lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol. Limit intake of saturated fats (in butter, full-fat dairy products and fatty meats) to less than 7 percent of daily calories—that’s 16 grams, if you’re consuming 2,000 calories. Avoid the artificial trans fats that are ubiquitous in fast foods and processed snacks, such as crackers and cookies. (Trans-fat tip-off: “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredients list.) Try to consume no more than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol daily. Do all of this simply—no number crunching required—by replacing whole-fat dairy with skim or 1% dairy products and replacing fatty meats with lean meats, fish and plant-based proteins, such as beans.
Eat fish twice a week
Fish—especially “oily” kinds, such as salmon—are rich in the omega-3 fatty acids that, studies suggest, protect the heart. For men and women who won’t become pregnant, the benefits of eating fish frequently far outweigh any risks associated with mercury.
Limit sugary drinks and foods
Americans’ consumption of added sugars (e.g., sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup) has risen about 25 percent in the last four decades. Added sugars are “empty” calories that supply few nutrients—and research links drinking lots of sugary beverages with weight gain.
Keep an eye on salt
Limit daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams (about 1 teaspoon). Call it supply-side salt-onomics: as salt intake increases, so does blood pressure. Your heart has to work harder to pump the added fluid your body retains from sodium.
Drink alcohol in moderation
If you consume alcohol, do so “moderately”—that’s two drinks per day for men, one drink for women. And while studies link moderate alcohol intake with reduced risk of heart disease, it doesn’t mean that teetotalers should take up drinking. Alcohol can be addictive and high intakes can contribute to hypertension.
That's it. Besides good loving, have a good strong healthy heart.