February is Heart Month and it is good that we pause to think about the care of our heart. About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s one in every four deaths.

Getting to the heart of your health

Image Heart Girl Holding Heart Image Heart Girl Holding Heart Image Heart Girl Holding Heart

February is Heart Month and it is good that we pause to think about the care of our heart. About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s one in every four deaths. It remains the leading cause of death for both men and women. Half of those deaths are from coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people annually. About 735,000 Americans have a heart attack each and every year! These are big numbers, aren’t they? Here are some reminders about heart disease prevention.

Know the warning signs of heart attacks so that you can act fast to call 911.

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Upper body pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Cold sweats

There are risk factors for heart disease, and modifying these with lifestyle changes will reduce your risk of having a cardiovascular event.

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes, especially if not well-controlled
  • Inactivity or lack of regular exercise
  • Being overweight and obese
  • Poor diet that contains saturated fats, processed and convenience foods and high-sugar foods and beverages
  • Excessive alcohol

Healthy eating for good is the recommendation from the American Heart Association (AHA). Eat Smart is one  reminder from the AHA – that means, have most meals prepped at home to control the salt, sugar and fat content.

  • Build your plate around fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, with small amount of lean protein.
  • Include healthy fats like olive and grapeseed oils, fatty fish, avocadoes and nuts.
  • Limit the harmful saturated fats, trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Go easy with too much sugar, sweet drinks and sweet bakery desserts – these can cause blood glucose spikes and that causes artery inflammation.

There are lots of heart-healthy, family-friendly remembers at www.heart.org.

Recipes to try:

__

About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.