February is American Heart Month

February is the perfect time to think about the state of your heart.

Are you treating your heart with tender loving care? February is American Heart Month, so I encourage you to spend some time thinking about the health of your heart. The health of your heart determines your overall health.

Try these tips this month for a healthier heart:
  • Check your diet. Are you eating foods from each section of My Plate? Make sure that each meal includes fruit, vegetables, protein, grains and dairy.
  • Portion size is important. Most portions of fruit, vegetables and grains is about ½ cup. Protein ia about 3 ounces and dairy products are 1 cup. Check out My Plate for specific portion sizes. Remember that the serving size listed on packages may not be the correct portion size recommended.
  • When choosing fruits and vegetables, choose a variety of colors each day. Each color represents a different plant chemical that keeps your heart-healthy by providing important vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and C and minerals like calcium, iron and magnesium. Red fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamin A which will help keep your heart-healthy and your immune system strong. Dark green vegetables are the “vitamin pill” of the vegetable world. These greens and broccoli provide vitamins A, C, D, E and calcium, iron and magnesium.
  • Keep protein and dairy sources lean. A diet high in fat is not heart-friendly. Choosing leaner cuts of meat, including poultry and fish, will help keep your fat and cholesterol lower. Adding beans, nuts and legumes to meals can provide protein with no cholesterol and very low fat; just be careful how you prepare them. Adding extra fat to your recipes will not keep your heart-healthy.
  • When evaluating grains, choose whole grains most of the time. The added fiber from eating whole grains like oats, brown rice and whole-grain pasta is very heart-healthy.
  • Check your daily physical activity. Are you getting 30 minutes of activity at least five days of the week? If not, that should ultimately become your new goal. If you're struggling to reach your goal, start slowly with perhaps five minutes and gradually work up to 30 minutes as your endurance develops. Walking is one of the best activities you can do for your heart. If walking isn’t an option, there are exercises you can do while seated. Ask your personal care provider what physical activities are best for you.

For more information about health and living a healthy lifestyle, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.

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