Become Heart Healthy in 5 Simple Steps

February is American Heart Month.  According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number 1 killer in women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year.  That’s a good reason to take good care of your heart and start as early as possible by lowering your risk of heart disease.  It’s all about making healthy choices and I’ve outlined the key areas that really count:
Eat Healthy
A healthy diet goes a long way to a healthy heart.  This is a diet that is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.  It is filled with a variety of fruit and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.  Choosing a wide variety of colorful fruit and vegetables ensures that you are getting the many different vitamins and minerals they offer, so try to create a rainbow on your plate.  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has two featured healthy plate recipes that meet these heart healthy requirements perfectly.  Thai Pineapple and Chicken is a sweet and savory dinner entrée featuring chicken, fresh pineapple and bell peppers.  It also includes broccoli, onion, and garlic, along with a delicious sauce.  You’ll serve this with brown rice.

Courtesy of Fruits & Veggies–More Matters
The second recipe is Rainbow Bell Pepper Boats with Garbanzo Beans and Kale.  Add this dish to your Meatless Monday menu, as these stuffed peppers are filling and flavorful.  Brown rice, garbanzo beans, chopped kale and walnuts are blended to create the filling.

Courtesy of Fruits & Veggies–More Matters
Maintain A Healthy Weight
A healthy weight is important in reducing your risk of heart disease.  According to the American Heart Association, an obese individual is much more likely to suffer a heart attack or other heart-related complications than a person who is of normal weight.  If you need to reduce your weight, Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has some tips to help you that include easy ways to include fruit and vegetables to your day, portion control, and including your favorite foods into a healthy diet (remember–it’s all about balance!).
Be Physically Active
Exercise plays a crucial role in helping you maintain a healthy weight.  Studies have shown that exercise helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and can help to relieve stress.  Does this mean you have to run out and join a gym or spend hours a day lifting weights?  Of course not.  Every day activities count toward exercise too!  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has a terrific reference page that provides some ideas on how to become physically active doing regular things you would normally do.  It also gives you a look at the number of calories burned doing specific activities.
Stop Smoking
This is self-explanatory.  Smoking is associated most with lung cancer, but it also causes 30 percent of all heart disease and strokes.  The American Heart Association has a plan to help you kick the habit–your heart (and lungs) will thank you.
Manage Stress
Yes, I know–easier said than done.  The American Heart Association reports that stress can weaken the immune system and studies suggest that chronic stress causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure that may damage artery walls.  All the more reason to find ways to relieve stress as much as possible.  As I mentioned earlier, exercise is a wonderful way to blow off steam.  The American Heart Association has other suggestions you may find helpful that include things like getting enough sleep, volunteering at your favorite organization, and talking with friends.
I’ll be back next week with some recipes to celebrate National Cherry Month.
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