It’s fitting that in the month of Valentine’s Day comes another reason to turn your attention to the heart—February is also American Heart Month. As physical therapy and sports medicine professionals, we encourage our clients to make the healthiest lifestyle choices possible. This month we’re emphasizing the health of one of, if not the most important organ—the heart.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists heart disease as the leading cause of death in the U.S., killing even more Americans than cancer. Heart disease, also called cardiovascular disease, is a term used to describe a variety of problems with the heart. The most common issue is called atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque on the walls of the arteries, inhibiting blood flow, which can eventually lead to stroke or heart attack. Damage to your heart can come from a variety of sources including congenital heart defects, high blood pressure and stress, but the most common causes are due to lifestyle choices that include smoking, lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet.
Making small changes to your daily life can improve your health and lower your chances of heart disease. These changes can include adding exercise to your routine, quitting smoking (which you should do regardless) and, probably the easiest change to make, improving your diet by incorporating heart-healthy foods. Below are some of our favorite foods that taste great and improve cardiovascular health.
Heart Healthy Foods:
Fish. Fish such as salmon, tuna and trout are all high in omega-3 fatty acids that help to keep your blood flowing, lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels, which lowers your risk of heart disease. Not a fish person? Try taking fish oil supplements instead.
Oatmeal. This breakfast staple is high in soluble fiber that helps eliminate “bad” LDL cholesterol from the body. But, be sure to eat whole or rolled oats as opposed to instant oat that can contain high amounts of sugar.
Nuts. Walnuts, almonds and cashews are full of “good” fats that can improve cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated fats. Nuts also help you to feel satiated but avoid salted varieties that are high in sodium, and consume them in moderation, as they are very calorie dense.
Berries. Berries are nature’s delicious super fruits. Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are full of vitamins, antioxidants, phytonutrients and soluble fiber, all of which help decrease chances of a heart attack. They can also decrease inflammation, which is crucial to one’s health and well-being.
Potatoes. This food is high in potassium and fiber that lowers blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
Red wine. Could this really be heart healthy? Surprisingly, yes. Recent research has found that red wine contains antioxidants and resveratrol, which may help lower bad cholesterol and prevent blood clots when consumed in moderation.
Tomatoes. Tomatoes contain lycopene that helps to rid the body of bad cholesterol.
Dark chocolate. As you shop for candy for your special someone, make sure you look for dark chocolate made up of at least 70% cocoa. It contains flavonoids called polyphenols that help to reduce blood pressure, inflammation and the chance of clotting.
Want more tips for living a healthy life? Contact a Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy clinic near you!