Keeping your heart healthy: Five steps to keep you on track

February is a great time to check resources to keep your heart healthy and review the steps to preventing heart disease.

February is American Heart Month and it is a great time to check out some resources to keep your heart healthy and review the steps to preventing heart disease. Here are some ideas and resources to help you.

Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthy meal and snack options is not as hard as you might think. A great suggestion is to have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables. This can be fresh, frozen, dried fruits or canned fruit in its own juice. A baked apple or serving of mixed fruits is a great addition to any meal. Frozen fruits with plain yogurt will make a wonderful smoothie for a meal or snack. For information on a healthy diet Michigan State University Extension recommends the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Nutrition page and United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA)

Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis. It is equally important to monitor the sodium in any processed foods and any additional salt added to foods you prepare.

Get your cholesterol checked. Your health care professional should test your cholesterol levels, and you can do your part by reducing the kinds of fat in your diet. This will help to keep cholesterol within limits. Good fats protect your heart and support overall health. In fact, good fats—such as omega-3 fats—are essential to physical and emotional health. Some good fats to use include: olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, avocado, olives and nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans and cashews). Fish is also a great choice when choosing healthier options and a good source of healthy fats. The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has a brochure titled “Eat Safe Fish” that can help with Michigan fish.

Maintain a healthy weight. It is always a good time to start. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD). To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, health care professionals often calculate a number called body mass index (BMI). Doctors may also use waist and hip measurements to measure a person's body fat. Talk with your health care professional about ways to accomplish your goal.

Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity activity for at least 150 minutes per week. Remember to incorporate exercise into your day in different ways; take the stairs instead of the elevator, have fun dancing or doing yoga. Exercising with friends and family can be a great way to stay healthy and have fun. For more information, visit CDC webpage on physical activity.

Take these steps now to help ensure heart health for you and your family.

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