February is heart disease awareness month. We started off with “Go Red for Women” on the first day of the month reminding us that heart disease and not breast cancer is the number 1 cause of death for women in the US. Did you remember to wear red that day?
We’ve since passed Valentine’s Day and the favorite symbol of romance in gifts is chocolate. Every woman I know loves chocolate and slowly we have come to prefer dark chocolate because of the associated health benefits. Particularly heart benefits. Now we have an excuse for our daily piece of dark chocolate.
But heart disease risk reduction goes beyond wearing red and eating dark chocolate. And we need to focus on it everyday, not just during the short month of February. So here are some tips for the coming days (and years) of good health:
- Know your ABCs and what they mean:
- A1C Having undiagnosed and uncontrolled diabetes greatly increases your risk of heart disease.
- Blood pressure should be checked at every medical visit. Keeping your blood pressure under control can reduce not only heart disease risk but prevent damage to your kidneys and other organs as well.
- Serum cholesterol levels should be checked at least annually. Elevations can be controlled with lifestyle changes and medication if needed.
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. That means counting the calories in your serving of red wine and chocolate to stay within your budget.
- Participate in a form of enjoyable physical activity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Daily physical activity is one strategy that will help to control weight, lower blood pressure AND reduce cholesterol and stress.
- Substitute saturated fats (animal fats, solid fats) with healthier unsaturated fats from seeds, nuts and oils. Again, you need to be calorie conscious because these can add up quickly and contribute to weight gain.
- Cook more meals at home to control added fats and sodium in your meals.
- Eat fish at least twice a week. Choose from fatty varieties like sardines, mackerel, salmon and halibut to get health promoting omega-3 fatty acids.
- Don’t like fish? Consider taking a fish oil supplement that contains DHA and EPA in a daily dose of 250mg.
- Allergic to fish? Walnuts and omega eggs are also sources of omega-3’s.
Next time let’s talk about dark chocolate. Get more information on “Go Red for Women” at http://www.goredforwomen.org/.