SNAP-Ed NY: February is Heart Health Month
By Wendy Beckman, MS, RD
Your heart, which is a muscle about the size of your fist, pumps 2,000 GALLONS of blood through your body every day, delivering oxygen to your cells. According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease, including coronary artery disease and heart attacks, are the leading cause of death in the United States. Those are some eye-opening statistics pointing out the obvious: you need to take care of your heart. February is the perfect month to show it some love!
There are factors you cannot control that impact heart health, including your age and whether you have Type 2 Diabetes or high blood pressure. Controllable behaviors include smoking, drinking too much alcohol, not getting enough exercise, and making smart decisions about the amount of fatty foods you eat.
There are many things that you CAN do to change your lifestyle and improve your heart health:
Stop or reduce smoking.
Smoking causes one of every four deaths from cardiovascular disease. Quitting can be challenging, and even if you have tried to quit before and failed, it is always worth trying again. Data shows it can take up 11 attempts to quit smoking. If you haven’t been able to quit yet, maybe you just haven’t found the method that works for you.
Regular exercise helps keep our blood vessels and heart strong and in good condition as we age. Find an activity that you can do safely year-round. Consult your doctor to find out if it is safe for you to exercise if you have any pre-existing conditions, or if you haven’t exercised in a while.
Limit alcohol intake.
One drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men is the recommended limit to avoid associated health problems. It is also OK to cut out alcohol completely.
Control your blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure, make sure that you take medication to control it. Stopping some high blood pressure medications suddenly can be dangerous, so make sure you take your medication every day.
Control your blood sugar.
If you have Type 2 Diabetes, control your blood sugar levels. Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Limit your intake of foods that contain saturated and trans-fat.
Choosing lean protein like fish and poultry with the skin removed and eating more plant-based proteins like beans and legumes helps cut down on saturated fat intake. Switching to low fat or fat free dairy can also help. Saturated fat is found only in animal food sources, and plant-based food sources like fruits, vegetables and whole grains are all low in saturated fat. These are good reasons to make half your plate fruits and vegetables, vary your protein routine, make half your grains whole grains, and switch to low fat or fat free dairy. For more information about eating healthy, visit MyPlate.gov.
No one can control all of the risk factors for heart disease, but making small changes every day adds up to better heart health over time.
Wendy Beckman, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian with the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA). She has over 15 years’ experience working as a Registered Dietitian in long term care and acute care settings and currently oversees the NYSOFA SNAP-Ed Nutrition Education program for older adults in New York State. This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For more information on how to save time, save money and eat healthy, visit www.snapedny.org