February is Heart Month – not only a time to treat your Valentine, but also a time to learn more about heart health. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is common, and a major risk factor for heart disease. These eight factors play a role:
- Family History
While you can’t stop the clock nor change your family history, you do have some control over six of these eight factors. Think about what you eat each day, and work on adding more nutrient-rich, fiber-rich foods. Fruits, vegetables or nuts are a good place to start for fiber. Most people respond well to a sodium reduction. While many of the recipes in our books have no added salt, it is okay to add a pinch here and there, but be aware of the sodium added to your diet from highly processed food (keeping in mind that a daily goal for sodium is around 2300 milligrams).
Note that exercise is on the list. Improving your fitness level helps your heart and simply makes your body more functional. Talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise program, and start slowly. If you can, consider hiring a personal trainer to get you started, or join a group exercise class with a friend. Having some accountability helps.
Modifying Your Behavior
Just a few modifications in your behavior can result in improved health by the end of the year. Everyone is an individual, and the possibilities are endless, but consider choosing from these simple changes to a healthier you in 6 months:
- Eat oatmeal for breakfast 3 or more times a week. The fiber in oatmeal can help lower your cholesterol.
- Take a 20-45 minute walk 3 times a week. Or use a fitness tracker to add more steps daily.
- Have a green salad with lean protein (grilled chicken, fish, cottage cheese, beans, or nuts) on it for lunch twice a week
- At dinner twice a week – skip the bread and starch, and enjoy lean meat and vegetables
- Do 5 or more push ups every morning, and work up to 45 abdominal crunches
- Replace your vending machine candy bar/chips with a 6 ounce yogurt or a fresh piece of fruit every afternoon.