Even though Valentine’s Day has passed, we shouldn’t stop thinking about our hearts. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services working every day to lower the incidence of heart disease — the number one killer of Americans — we each have a duty to educate ourselves and take action!
So, how do you get started to keep your heart healthy? Following proven, simple steps and making changes in your life can combat heart disease and protect your heart health. Start with your diet: Research has proven a healthy diet goes a long way toward healthy hearts. Here are some tips to get you started (especially now that those Valentine’s Day chocolates are gone!):
1. Think twice on the carbs — Recent studies suggest that eating high amounts of refined carbs can increase blood pressure, a real risk factor for heart disease. Switch out those super white starches with heart-healthy whole grains such as whole-grain wheat bread, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, steel-cut oats, etc.
2. The heart loves fruits and veggies — Fruits and vegetables have so many beneficial nutrients that it would take forever to explain them all. Let’s focus on just one for now though, potassium. This mineral helps blood vessels relax. You should be getting approximately 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day. For reference, one banana, one of the best sources of potassium, yields about 422 milligrams. Other heart-healthy, potassium-packed foods include apricots, prune juice, cantaloupe, spinach and sweet potatoes.
3. Watch that sodium — Sodium has been linked to high blood pressure, and adding it into your food is a silly mistake. There are lots of other flavor enhancers besides salt. Think of all the different flavors you can experiment with in place of piling salt on.
4. Lose that extra weight — Losing weight will lower your blood pressure and alleviate some of the stress your heart is dealing with. The good thing is the first three tips will all help you lose weight. You’re already on your way, just get moving!
Other things that can affect the heart are exercise, alcohol intake and cigarettes. For more facts, research and information, visit the American Heart Association’s website.