February is the month of hearts, and not just because of Valentine’s Day. It is also celebrated as American Heart Month to help raise awareness of your own heart’s health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women both nationally and here in Lee County. Heart disease includes a variety of conditions such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia, and heart valve problems.
The good news is that you can make healthy changes to lower your risk of developing heart disease. To lower your risk:
- Take time to be mindful and relax. Take breaks in the day to breathe deeply, enjoy your meals, and be present. Focus on positive thoughts. Take walking breaks when you find yourself feeling stressed.
- Control your cholesterol and blood pressure. Soluble fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may help in reducing cholesterol levels. Try to make half of your grains whole grains and half of your plate fruits and vegetables. The potassium in fruits and vegetables may also help in lowering blood pressure. Avoid foods high in salt due to the fact that they may increase blood pressure.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation. Moderation for men is considered one to two drinks daily and for women it is considered one drink daily. Drinking more alcohol than this has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, alcoholism, stroke, obesity, suicide, and accidents.
- Get active and eat healthy. The American Heart Association recommends getting 30 minutes of physical activity in at least five days a week. Make sure to include foods from all five food groups: dairy, fruits, vegetables, protein, and grains. Choose low-fat dairy and protein options. Also, read food labels and limit high sodium foods.
There are different ways in which you can help raise awareness about heart disease around the community. Form a walking group with coworkers, family, or friends. Find a time that works for you all to meet up such as lunch time or after work. Prepare meals for yourself, family, and friends that are heart healthy. For a list of foods that are heart healthy visit healthfinder.gov. Let’s celebrate the heart this February. Taking action and encouraging those around you to join in those healthy steps can help to reduce the incidence of heart disease. Small changes can lead to large results in improving heart health!
The Lee County Cooperative Extension’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Alyssa Anderson, MS, RDN, LDN at 919-775-5624.