February may be best known for Valentine’s Day, but it’s also an important reminder to focus on our heart health. February is designated American Heart Month, in order to help educate Americans and raise awareness around the impact of heart disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, responsible for 1 in 4 deaths every year.
Fortunately, prevention is possible. By making healthy lifestyle choices and managing health conditions, you can significantly lower your risk of developing heart disease. Follow these rules to protect your ticker:
1. Keep it fresh.
A heart-healthy diet is all about making smart choices at the grocery store, and fresh produce is a great place to start.
Boost your intake of fruits and vegetables by including them in every meal. Next, make produce the star of your plate and majority of your meal. All forms count – fresh, frozen, canned, dried and juices – so don’t feel limited if your favorite fruit or vegetable is not in season.
Take advantage of citrus season by stocking up on oranges, mangos, and grapefruit. Citrus fruits contain hesperidin, an important bioactive that supports heart health. 100% orange juice is also a great source of this powerful plant compound.
Additionally, research shows an association between lycopene and a reduced risk of heart disease. This important antioxidant can be found in tomatoes, sweet red pepper, and asparagus, as well as pink grapefruit and watermelon.
Make sure that your vegetables stay washed and cut in your refrigerator, so that they can easily serve as quick snacks. You can also consistently keep a bowl of fruit in your kitchen. By making these foods accessible, you can stick to your heart-healthy habits during a busy week.
2. Get creative.
When it comes to maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle, there are multiple ways to snag those important nutrients.
Cooking with 100% juice adds a boost of flavor to your tried-and-true dishes without the added fat. This can also help cut sodium. Try using 100% juice as a healthy alternative for oil in marinades and salad dressing.
You can also incorporate your fresh produce into tasty recipes, such as vegetable stir-fry or salads topped off with fruit.
3. Make sure you’re sipping smart.
When it comes to choosing heart-healthy drinks, look beyond calories and focus on big-picture benefits.
Along with offering valuable nutrients like vitamin C and potassium, 100% juice is naturally fat-free and low in sodium. As with all good things, portion size makes a difference. Make sure you\’re following appropriate serving sizeswhen drinking juice. One cup of 100% juice is equivalent to one cup of whole fruit, and up to half of your daily fruit intake may come from juice.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. This means an average of one to two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women.
If you’re looking to cut back on alcohol, try swapping your night cap for cherry juice. A recent study found that drinking just two cups of 100% tart cherry juice a day can have a positive impact on heart health.
Cranberry juice is another heart-healthy option. This tasty beverage is natural source of polyphenols, which have been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease.
4. Work it out.
Staying active is a great way to show your heart some love. Aerobic exercise is especially beneficial as it can improve circulation, resulting in a lowered blood pressure and heart rate.
Try to engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, five days per week. Some easy ideas include running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis, or jumping rope.
Even walking at least 20 minutes a day can make a big difference and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Some easy ways to incorporate more steps? Walk around the house when you are on the phone, take the stairs instead of the elevator and park far away from the store.
If cold winter weather is making it difficult to walk outside, do loops around your local mall, or visit indoor tracks at local schools.