Heart-healthy choices to reduce our chances of getting heart disease

Heart-healthy choices to reduce our chances of getting heart disease

February is American Heart Month and we’re raising awareness on cardiovascular health.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s article What is Heart-Healthy Living, “Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.”

Risk factors for heart disease include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being prediabetic or diabetic
  • Smoking
  • Not getting regular physical activity
  • Having a family history of early heart disease. For example, if your father or brother was diagnosed before age 55, or your mother or sister was diagnosed before age 65
  • Having a history of preeclampsia, a sudden rise in blood pressure and too much protein in the urine during pregnancy
  • Having unhealthy eating behaviors
  • Are age 55 or older for women or age 45 or older for men

Fortunately, there are heart-healthy choices we can make to reduce our chances of getting heart disease. These include:

  1. Not smoking or using tobacco
  2. Getting regular physical activity. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends “each week, adults get at least:
  • 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or
  • 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or
  • A combination of both moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity activity."
  1. Eating heart-healthy foods. According to https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-healthy-living/healthy-foods, a heart -healthy diet includes:
  • Vegetables such as leafy greens (spinach, collard greens, kale, cabbage), broccoli, and carrots
  • Fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges, pears, grapes, and prunes
  • Whole grains such as plain oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-grain bread or tortillas
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy foods such as milk, cheese, or yogurt
  • Protein-rich foods:
    • Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, and trout)
    • Lean meats such as 95% lean ground beef or pork tenderloin or skinless chicken or turkey
    • Eggs
    • Nuts, seeds, and soy products (tofu)
    • Legumes such as kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and lima beans
  • Oils and foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats:
    • Canola, corn, olive, safflower, sesame, sunflower, and soybean oils (not coconut or palm oil)
    • Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and pine nuts
    • Nut and seed butters
    • Salmon and trout
    • Seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, or flax)
    • Avocados
    • Tofu
  • Limiting sodium (salt), saturated fat, added sugars, and alcohol.
  1. Managing stress. According to https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-healthy-living/manage-stress, “Talk with friends, family, and community or religious support systems.”
  2. Checking your blood pressure and cholesterol. If either of your numbers are high, work with your doctor to get it to a healthy range. According to https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-healthy-living/risks, below are helpful “questions to ask your provider at your annual checkup:
  • What is my risk of developing heart disease?
  • What is my blood pressure? What does it mean for me, and what do I need to do about it?
  • What are my cholesterol numbers? What do they mean for me, and what do I need to do about them?
  • What is my body mass index (BMI) and waist measurement? Do I need to lose weight for my health?
  • What is my blood sugar level, and does it mean I’m at risk for diabetes?
  • What other screening tests for heart disease do I need? How often should I return for checkups for my heart health?
  • How can we work together to help me quit smoking?
  • How much physical activity do I need to help protect my heart?
  • What is a heart-healthy eating plan for me? Should I see a registered dietitian or qualified nutritionist to learn more about healthy eating?
  • How can I tell when I’m having a heart attack?"
  1. Maintaining a healthy weight
  2. Getting enough good-quality sleep. According to https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-healthy-living/sleep, adults aged 18 years or older should get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

For more information on the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s article, What Is Heart-Healthy Living?, visit https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-healthy-living.