February may be the shortest month of the year, but these 28 days are enough time to achieve some big improvements in your heart health. Try making one small change each week to lower your sodium intake, get active, quit smoking and control your blood pressure. Dawn Davoli, RD, LDN, nutrition consultant for Excela Health, offers the following facts and tips to boost your heart health this month.
- Shake the habit. Where does the sodium in our diet come from? Surprisingly, 77 percent comes from processed, prepared, or packaged foods; 12 percent is naturally occurring; 6 percent is added at the table; and 5 percent is added during cooking. Try preparing meals from fresh ingredients, eating more fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, seasoning foods with herbs and spices and checking food labels for sodium levels.
- Get moving. Regular physical activity is a must for a healthy heart. A sedentary lifestyle is equal to a cigarette smoker using two packs per day! Aim for exercising five times or 150 minutes per week. Choose an activity that you like to do and make it a regular “appointment” on your calendar. In addition to helping your heart, exercise reduces stress and increases energy.
- Kick butt. Tobacco is still the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Now is the time to quit for good. Talk to you health care provider on available treatments and enlist the help of your friends. Studies show that you have a better chance of success if you have help.
- Know your numbers. Lowering your blood pressure or maintaining normal blood pressure can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. A desirable reading is under 120/80. Remember to track your readings, take your medication, limit alcohol and make time to relax.
The Excela Health Well Being Center can assist you in achieving a healthy heart. Call 1-877-771-1234 to schedule a personal nutrition coaching session, a visit with a personal trainer or to register for a smoking cessation or stress management class.