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Great tips for Heart Health Month

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For most people, February conjures up images of red hearts, candy and messages to loved ones. But, did you know February is also American Heart Month?

Now is a great time to focus beyond Valentine hearts and pay attention to your actual heart.

As the leading killer of Americans, cardiovascular disease affects one in three people in the U.S. -- approximately 81 million people. And, the American Heart Association predicts that this number will increase to 116 million people, or 40.5 percent of Americans, by 2030.

Thankfully, there are simple steps you can easily incorporate into your day-to-day life that can make a big difference, according to Susan J. Crockett, PhD, RD, FADA and leader of the General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition.

“Genetics does play a role in cholesterol and overall heart health,” says Crockett. “While being aware of one’s family history is certainly important, there are lifestyle changes you can make and foods you can eat as part of an overall healthy diet that can decrease the risk factors for heart disease and may help lower cholesterol.”

There are several ways people can begin to make a difference in their personal heart health and cholesterol levels, according to Crockett. To help make your lifestyle more heart-healthy, try to remember Crockett’s “HEART” tips.

Have a list: Keep a running list of health to-dos, such as regular cholesterol and blood pressure screenings, as well as questions for your physician. Find out and jot down foods you can eat to lower cholesterol and other ways to take care of your heart.

Eat more of the “good stuff”: Be conscious of what you are eating and make an effort to incorporate heart healthy foods into your diet. For example, fruits, vegetables, whole grain, and low-fat dairy are all good choices for a heart healthy diet. Eating more fish like salmon, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, may also help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Aim for more whole grain oats: When making food choices, look for whole grain oats or whole grain oat cereal that contains beta glucan, like Cheerios. Beta glucan is a natural soluble fiber found in oats that helps reduce bad cholesterol. To reduce the risk of heart disease, you need three grams of soluble fiber daily from whole grain oat foods as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Run, walk, skip, jump: However you choose to exercise, just make sure it is a part of your daily routine.

Try healthy swaps: Healthier options are out there, so make the switch. For instance, instead of full fat mayonnaise, spread smashed avocado on your sandwich, which is high in healthy fats that help your heart. Also, when eating out, don’t be afraid to ask your server for healthier preparation methods, like steamed and broiled instead of fried, or ingredient substitutes like whole grain pasta.

Taking a few moments each day to make heart healthy decisions can make a significant difference in your future.

Courtesy of State Point Media

Posted 12:00 am, February 13, 2012
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