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  • Writer's pictureEmily Sicinski, MS, RDN, CDN

Celebrate American Heart Month and Prioritize Your Cardiovascular Health

February is American Heart Month! To honor our heart health, let’s spend some time discussing heart disease, our risk factors for heart disease, and ways we can prevent heart disease by keeping our heart healthy through lifestyle factors.

Heart disease is a term used to describe a number of heart conditions which often include coronary artery disease (CAD), a condition that could lead to adverse health events like heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. Factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, or too much sugar in your blood can increase your risk for heart disease. It is important to know the symptoms of heart disease are “silent,” therefore many people are often unaware they have heart disease until a cardiac event or medical workup indicates otherwise. 

Due to genetic and lifestyle factors, some individuals might be at higher risk for heart disease than others. Luckily, there are measures we can all take to help reduce the risk of developing or worsening the symptoms associated with heart disease. Healthy eating, exercise, and healthy weight maintenance are just a few of the factors we have control over to improve our overall heart health. 

So what is a heart healthy diet exactly? To prioritize heart health, your diet should include:

  • A wide variety of fruits and vegetables

  • Whole grains and products made of primarily whole grain ingredients

  • Lean protein sources (chicken, fish, beans, lentils, and legumes) 

  • Minimal processed foods

  • Minimal added sugars

  • Minimal salt

  • Little to no alcohol

It is possible to follow a heart healthy diet whether your meals are prepared at home, ordered from a restaurant, or purchased online. By versing yourself on the Nutrition Facts Label, you can make educated choices no matter where you are getting your food from. The next time you go grocery shopping, try choosing food products that are low in saturated fat, added sugar, and sodium. One tip is to look for the heart healthy check mark approved by the American Heart Association on food products!

Other ways to improve our heart health include regular exercise and reducing stress level. Sadly, many American occupations and lifestyles do not promote these fundamental health qualities. It is up to you to get your body moving when you are able, as participating in exercise regularly can improve your heart health while also reducing your stress levels. 

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, so it is an important topic to discuss and educate on. Wishing you a happy and healthy rest of February!

Until next time,

Emily Sicinski, MS, RDN, CDN


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