It's fitting that, in the month of Valentine's Day, comes another reason to turn your attention to the heart, as February is also American Heart Month. Did you know that The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists heart disease as the leading cause of death in the U.S., killing even more Americans than cancer?
The good news is making small changes to your daily life can improve your health, in turn lowering your chances of heart disease. These changes can include: adding exercise to your routine, quitting smoking (which you should do regardless) and (probably the easiest change to make) improving your diet by incorporating heart-healthy foods.
When it comes to incorporating heart-healthy foods, below are some of our favorite foods that both taste great and improve cardiovascular health:
Fish: Fish such as salmon and tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids that help keep your blood flowing and lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels, which, in turn, lowers your risk of heart disease. Not a fish person? Try taking fish oil supplements instead.
Oatmeal: This breakfast staple is high in soluble fiber that helps eliminate "bad" LDL cholesterol from the body. But, be sure to eat whole or rolled oats as opposed to instant oat that can contain high amounts of sugar.
Nuts: Walnuts, almonds and cashews are full of healthy fats that can improve cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated fats. Avoid salted varieties, however, as they are high in sodium. Also, consume them in moderation, as they are very calorie dense.
Berries: Berries are nature's super fruits. Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are full of rich vitamins, antioxidants, phytonutrients and soluble fiber, all of which help decrease chances of a heart attack. They can also decrease inflammation, which is crucial to one's health and well-being.
Potatoes: This food is high in potassium and fiber that lowers blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes contain lycopene that helps to rid the body of bad cholesterol.
Dark chocolate: Make sure you look for dark chocolate made up of at least 70% cocoa. It contains flavonoids called polyphenols that help to reduce blood pressure, inflammation and the chance of clotting.
In addition to a healthy lifestyle, another key component to fighting heart disease is awareness. Tell a friend or a family member and get as many people as you can to join the new healthy you! It's proven that, when you team up with a group of people living a healthy life with you, the easier it will be for everyone to maintain this lifestyle by encouraging each other.
While you can't change things like age and family history, even modest changes and actions can improve your heart health and lower your risk by as much as 80 percent. By striving for a healthy lifestyle, building awareness and encouraging others, together we can help prevent heart disease. Don't wait until it's too late...start your journey to a healthy heart today!