Eat Your Heart Out for American Heart Month 2020

Updated: Feb 6

Love is in the air in February for Valentine’s Day, Wear Red Day on Feb. 7, and American Heart Month. We’ve got some realistic ways to beat heart disease. It’s also a great opportunity to use some cheesy puns.


February is host to American Heart Month, Wear Red Day, and Valentine's Day.

About Heart Disease

A Cleveland Clinic survey of 1,000 adults in the U.S. showed 68% did not know heart disease is the top cause of death among women and 80% did not know they should start getting their cholesterol levels checked in their twenties.


Many people also lacked knowledge about the key symptoms of heart attack in women and 58% reported getting less than the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week (1).


Heart disease is responsible for 25% of deaths in the US (3). Some of the contributing factors to the disease include inflammation, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. However, lifestyle factors including diet, exercise, and quitting smoking all contribute towards prevention of heart disease.


Heart Healthy Meal Ideas

As a registered dietitian, I wanted to take a closer look at how we can eat our hearts out with some heart healthy foods. I’m dishing out what a heart healthy diet looks like. Heart healthy meals typically include:

  • fiber

  • potassium

  • antioxidants

  • low sodium

  • low saturated fat

  • low added sugar

We’ve heard the term “high-fiber diet,” but you may wonder how much fiber per day do I need?


The recommendation for men is to get at least 30g of fiber per day and women need 25g per day (2). You can look at labels and add up the fiber you eat. Two other tricks to know if you’re getting enough fiber are:


  1. Instead of counting fiber grams, count how many servings of fruit, vegetables and whole grains you eat in a day. Try to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day (10 is better) and 1 serving of whole grains to get your recommended fiber.

  2. The other way to estimate if a meal if high in fiber- or any nutrient for that matter- is to use the 5/20 rule. When you look at a nutrition facts label, the nutrients you want more of like fiber, potassium, and antioxidants (vitamins C, E) should be 20% and up. The nutrients you want less of- sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar- should be 5% or less.


Strawberries and other fruits & vegetables are heart healthy because they're packed with fiber, potassium, and antioxidants.

How to Get a Healthy Heart

Everybody- young and old- should make heart health a priority. Habits that start young usually carry through adulthood. There are three actions you can take today to start building a healthy heart:


  1. First, if you smoke, go to Quit.com now to learn how to reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each day.

  2. Second, commit to 30 minutes of physical activity per day- no gym membership needed! Go for a walk, dance in your living room, play outside, or take the stairs.

  3. Third, enjoy heart healthy foods. Here’s one of my favorite heart healthy breakfast recipes:

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Berry Bars


Gluten-Free Oatmeal Berry Bars are heart healthy and delicious.

This heart healthy breakfast is high in fiber (20% Daily Value) and offers 5g of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) to help lower your cholesterol. The strawberries add potassium and antioxidants to keep blood pressure and inflammation down.

For more unique recipes, visit www.ZESTNutritionService.com


Here are some other fun ways to support American Heart Month:

  • Surprise your loved one with a treat- watch California Strawberries’ video “How to Make Strawberry Hearts

  • Participate in Wear Red Day on February 7. 90% of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease and it kills 1 out of 5 women (3). The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign created this holiday to raise awareness of the effect it has on women through heart attack and stroke.


Wear Red Day on Feb. 7 brings awareness to women's heart health.

We’re heart-ly out of puns, but we aorta get going. So this wasn’t all in vein, have a very healthy Heart Month!


References:

(1) Cleveland Clinic. (Jan. 30, 2020). Cleveland Clinic Survey: Most Americans Don’t Know Heart Disease Is Leading Cause of Death in Women. ClevelandClinic.org. https://newsroom.clevelandclinic.org/2020/01/30/cleveland-clinic-survey-most-americans-dont-know-heart-disease-is-leading-cause-of-death-in-women/

(2) United States Department of Agriculture. (2016). Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-7/

(3) National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute. (2020). National wear red day. NIH. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/education-and-awareness/heart-truth

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