Heart-healthy love affair

February is full of love. It is also filled with our love affair with food: candies, chocolates and more. But living and eating healthy is an even better way to show your love this month. Combining love and good nutrition might make a difference in how you feel and make your heart stronger. And being with the ones you love might possibly have a positive impact on your health – even lower your blood pressure.

Although love is in the air, February is also National Heart Month. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of Americans have at least one of the risk factors that will lead to heart disease (high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol or smoking). Other lifestyle choices and conditions that put people at risk for heart disease include diabetes, obesity, poor diet, inactivity and excessive alcohol. And since heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men, that really tugs on our heartstrings. By making some changes to your diet and daily routine, you can change how your heart feels.

Foods Good for Your Heart

There are plenty of foods that can help keep your body and heart healthy: foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon and tuna), soluble fiber (oatmeal, beans, bran, fruit, barley), healthy oils and fats (nuts, olive oil, sunflower oil, avocado), low-fat dairy or alternatives, lean meats and protein options, fruits and vegetables.

Seeing RED can also be a good thing. In addition to the foods mentioned above, some of your favorite red foods just might be what the doctor has ordered. For example, apples, tomatoes, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, salmon (well, it’s light red-ish), red peppers, pomegranates and kidney beans all have nutritional properties that can benefit heart health, helping to decrease risk of heart disease and inflammation. By including these foods in your diet, you are adding nutrients such as antioxidants, folate, vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals, fiber and more. What an easy way to keep your heart pumping! 

Love inside and out

This February, show a little love inside and out. The way to your loved one’s heart may be through more than just his or her stomach! Check out my ideas for ways to show your love and enjoy good health:

> Gift card to their favorite health food store

> Gourmet food or fruit basket

> Day of beauty

> New recipe book to cook something together

> Plant an herb garden

> Plan an activity – ice skating, walk at the beach, bike ride…

Create your own motivational journal together

Living Heart-Healthy this February

Having a healthy lifestyle and diet can be one of your best defenses against cardiovascular disease. Many of the choices you can make aren’t really as hard as you think. When you think of a strong, healthy heart, it’s like a relationship – you often get out of it what you put in. A little love and support can help make your heart stronger. Take these simple steps and show your heart some love: 

> Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables

> Limit sodium intake

> Get regular exercise

> Balance your plate

> Avoid trans fat (hydrogenated oils) and saturated fat

> Pick lean red meat options – limit fat

> Include healthy oils and fats

> Go whole grain

> Omit sugar-sweetened beverages and soda

> Decrease stress