Keep Your Heart Healthy By Reducing Risk and Taking Control

February is the month of Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month.  This month is about spreading awareness for better heart health. The key is to avoid increasing risks for coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure, which can lead to a stroke or heart attack.

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention we know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2006 were women. In 2010, heart disease will cost the United States $316.4 billion. This total includes the cost of health care services, medications and lost productivity.

Risk Factors for Heart Health

What can we do to help our hearts?  There are controllable and uncontrollable risk factors for heart health.

Uncontrollable Risk Factors

There are certain factors that affect heart health that we have no ability to control:

However, we do have the power to control our health.

Controllable Risk Factors

Being aware of these controllable risk factors can help us to make better choices for improved heart health and better weight control.

We know that having a normal BMI (body mass index) decreases the risk of various heart conditions. When you are in a normal weight range, your blood circulates more effectively, your fluids are maintained more appropriately and you are at lower risk for diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Weight is most readily managed by fusing a healthy diet with exercise and physical activity. Remember your heart is a muscle, too, and needs movement to keep it healthy.

Heart-Healthy Diet

In general, here are some guidelines from the American Heart Association that will help keep you heart healthy:

  • Keep your total fat intake to 25% to 35% of the total amount of calories you consume.
  • Saturated fat intake should be 7% or less  of total calories.
  • Trans fats should also be limited to less than 1% of total calories.
  • Consume no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day from food.
    • If you already have a heart condition, you should consume no more than 200 mg of cholesterol per day from food.
  • Eat 25-30 grams of fiber from food daily.
  • Consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

Remember that a heart-healthy diet is not just about what you should avoid, but also the nutritious foods you should incorporate into your diet, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fiber, water and lean protein and heart-healthy fats.

What do you do to try and keep your heart healthy? Share your tips for empowering yourself and controlling what you can for a healthier lifestyle.

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Photo credit: Django

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