February is known as the month of love, filled with candy and heart-shaped things. But just as important, February is American Heart Month. With heart disease causing 1 out of every 4 deaths in the U.S., this initiative is focused on raising awareness for one of the most prevalent diseases in America. We are joining the movement of education for prevention, so read on to find out our best tips to keep your heart healthy through a balanced lifestyle.
A Healthy Diet
Whether or not you are overweight, watching what you eat is important in ensuring you are getting the right vitamins and minerals to support organ health. Even 20 pounds over your healthy weight can put risk on your heart for cardiovascular disease. Here are a few small changes you can make now:
- Portion your food- It can be hard to think of limiting yourself to just one serving of practically anything, but paying attention to recommended servings can help limit your intake of calorically dense foods. A good tip for going out and avoiding overeating is to ask for a to-go box before you get your meal and immediately box half of it for later. Leftovers- yum!
- Focus on fruits and veggies- Whole foods like fruits and vegetables are considered nutrient-dense foods, meaning they pack more nutrients than they do calories. Full of healthy vitamins and minerals and low in fat calories, vegetables are recommended to take up at least 1/3 to ½ of your plate. Fill up on those power greens and don’t limit yourself on snacking on fruit.
- Switch your proteins – Fatty red meat is one of the most significant causes of high cholesterol levels. Instead, try switching to fish (one of the highest sources of healthy omega 3, leading to lower cholesterol) and lean chicken.
- Whole grains- Whole grains fit into the category of whole foods and are different than processed flours. When shopping for bread, be sure to pick out a whole grain bread, not whole wheat. Whole grains provide fiber and other important vitamins to regulate blood pressure.
- Watch your sodium- Sodium can hide in much more than just your typical bag of chips or fried food. Watch your salad dressings, dipping sauces, and cured meats for excessive levels of sodium- which leads to higher blood pressure. Leave behind those processed and canned foods and move towards more whole foods.
Regular Physical Activity
Exercise has been proven to be the most effective preventative medicine for heart disease. Regular physical activity helps weight maintenance, blood pressure and sugar levels, and cholesterol build-up. But not every exercise does the same thing, and it is recommended to have a balanced split between aerobic and strength exercises. Aerobic activities offer cardiovascular training and can lead to improved sleep. Strength training will help lose fat more effectively by building muscle while burning energy and can also lead to stronger bones and muscles. The YMCA offers a wide variety of group fitness classes like Pilates, Yoga, or Strength Training to hit all of your health goals.
Always Take Precautions
Staying on top of your health care can help manage symptoms and progression of heart disease. Make sure you get your blood levels and cholesterol tested every 4-6 years and your blood pressure every 2 years. The Greater Williamson County Y offers a Diabetes Prevention Program as well as Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring for older adults diagnosed with these diseases. We help our members learn how to manage their health and get back on track with a healthy lifestyle.
It is never too late to start taking control of your heart health. American Heart Month is a great opportunity to become educated about cardiovascular health and preventative measures you can take to lower your risk and keep your heart healthy. The Y is here to help you achieve your health and wellness goals, so stop by today. You belong at the Y.