February is American Heart Month, but improving your heart health should go beyond this month and last all year. Heart month is to bring awareness about cardiovascular disease and ways to prevent it. You can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease at any age through lifestyle changes, like regular physical activity and a balanced diet. The American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations to improve heart health are similar to an over-all healthful eating style.
Use up at least as many calories as you take in
- Know how many calories you should be eating to maintain weight
- Aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week
Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all food groups
- Eat an overall healthy dietary pattern that emphasizes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, and vegetable oils
Eat less of nutrient-poor foods
- Limit saturated fat, trans fats, sodium, red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages
A specific recommendation that most individuals could improve upon is to eat fish or seafood twice a week. Fish and seafood are great protein sources that are lower in saturated fats and calories than meat or poultry. Fish and seafood contain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats are associated with heart health because it helps lower triglycerides and blood pressure, and can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. American Heart Month happens to coincide with Lent, during which individuals of Catholic and other denominations abstain from meat on Fridays. Following fish Friday is a great way to boost your fish and seafood consumption, whether you participate in Lent or not.
Not only does regular fish consumption improve heart health, but it has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, and slow the rate of cognitive decline. Fatty fish provide the most omega-3s per serving, but a mix of both fatty and lean fish and seafood should be included in a healthy diet. Some of the best sources of omega-3 fats are salmon, sardines, rainbow trout, tuna and mackerel. Leaner fish and seafood like catfish, tilapia, cod, Pollock, shrimp, crab and clams are still good sources of omega-3 fats. It is easy to get two servings of fish or seafood a week into your diet by swapping out meat or poultry in recipes you regularly make. Or, try these new recipes to incorporate fish into your weekly meal rotations to help improve, not only your heart health, but overall health.
Grilled Fish Tacos with Avocado Jalapeno Cream from the Domestic Dietitian.
Lemon-Pepper Salmon with Couscous from LiveWell with UnityPoint Health.