Article By: Maria Tucker, MPH, RDN, LDN, CDCES
Maria Tucker is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 20 years of experience assisting patients with diabetes, obesity, and nutrition-related conditions. Maria is also the Founder of MyBiyaya.com, a site dedicated to healthy recipes and kitchen shortcuts.
It’s February, and love is in the air! At BariMelts, we're focused on encouraging self love within our community this month.
How do you show love to yourself? Start by taking care of your heart, of course! Here are our top 10 heart-healthy tips:
1) Know your numbers. Understand your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, weight, etc. Get screened for heart disease risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 47% (almost half) of all Americans have at least 1 of 3 key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.
2) Find out about your family history of heart disease from relatives. According to the Mayo Clinic, your risk of heart disease increases when you have a very close relative who had heart disease at a younger age (less than 55 years old for men and 65 years old for women).
3) Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity on its own can increase risk of heart disease. It causes more strain on your heart and can lead to other heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
4) Choose heart-healthy food options. You can accomplish this by:
- Eating whole grains on a daily basis.
- Including more omega-3 fatty acid and antioxidant-rich foods such as oily fish, nuts, seeds, berries, and 70% cacao dark chocolate. These foods have been found to reduce chronic inflammation in the body.
- Avoiding trans fats and saturated fats, found mostly in pre-packaged baked goods and fried foods.
- Increasing fiber in your diet. Try to consume 25-30 grams of dietary fiber from food daily. Studies have shown that consuming a high fiber diet can help lower cholesterol and control blood sugar.
- Spicing-up your meals with herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, cayenne, and black pepper. These herbs and spices have anti-inflammatory properties which may reduce chronic inflammation.
5) Limit sodium intake to 2,300 mg. per day or about 1 teaspoon of table salt. According to the Food and Drug Administration, most Americans eat ~3,400 mg. of sodium daily! Read the Nutrition Facts on packaged foods, and check ingredient lists for hidden sources of sodium.
6) Engage in cardio physical activity (such as brisk walking) for at least 30-45 minutes, 5 days per week. Add some resistance or strength training physical activity to help build muscles. Schedule physical activity on your calendar just like you would any other appointment. Find something you enjoy doing such as dancing, walking, or swimming. Consider working out with a friend — it makes physical activity more fun and enjoyable!
7) Find ways to reduce stress. Watch a funny movie, spend some time meditating, engage in yoga, get a massage, listen to soothing music, light a fragrant candle, or even do some simple deep breathing exercises.
8) Get your ZZZs! Lack of sleep can trigger cravings and hunger which can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of heart disease. 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep is generally recommended. Avoid caffeine later in the day or at night. Caffeine can linger in your system for 3-7 hours and can affect your quality of sleep.
9) Brush your pearly whites at least twice per day! Gum disease has been associated, at least indirectly, with increased risk of heart disease. Although a direct connection has not been truly established by most studies, some experts still believe that gum disease may be an independent risk factor for heart disease.
10) Have regular check-ups with your primary care doctor and stay informed of new research about heart disease. Take your medications as prescribed, and let your doctor know before taking any new herbs or supplements. Do not stop or reduce your medications without informing your doctor.
For this month of love, prepare a special heart healthy meal, watch a funny movie, cuddle up with your someone special, and get your ZZZs!
"A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book!" -Irish Proverb
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.