Friday, February 4, 2011

6 Steps to a Healthy Heart

February is American Heart Month. Here is what we know, according to the National Institutes of Health:

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control,  25 percent of deaths in 2007 were due to heart disease.

You may be at increased risk for heart disease if:
  • You have a family history of heart disease
  • Your cholesterol levels are high, specifically total and LDL cholesterol
  • You have diabetes
  • You smoke
  • Your diet is lacking in fiber and key nutrients
  • You don't get enough exercise
You may not be able to change your genes, at least not at this point, but there are a few things that you can do to reduce your heart disease risks. Here are a few tips:
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Choose both plant and animal sources to cover all bases.
  • Control your blood sugar by eating the right balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat. Pay attention to the ratio of insulin to carbohydrate to avoid extreme highs and lows.
  • Do not smoke. If you smoke, stop.
  • Eat foods rich in fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and other functional plant compounds.
  • Avoid trans fats, saturated fats and foods with large amounts of added sugar or salt.
  • Stay physically active. Start by climbing stairs and pick up the pace of your steps when walking if you haven't been active for a while.