How to have a healthy heart

Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum

February is American Heart Month, and a great time to get back to those New Year’s resolutions, and take steps to improve heart health. There are many risk factors for heart attacks and stroke. Some we can control, and some we can’t. Here are some ways to lower your risk.

  • Quit smoking. Smoking increases your blood pressure and cholesterol. It also hardens blood vessels. If you need help quitting, contact the Southern Ute Health Center or 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-7848-669) to make your quit easier.
  • Get moving. Most of us don’t get all the exercise our bodies need to keep us in tip-top shape. At least 30 minutes of moderate intensity (break a sweat) exercise, at least five days a week can keep you feeling and functioning your best. Start slow and listen to your body. Talk to your doctor if you are not sure what your body can handle.
  • Cut back on sugar. With its many deceiving names (high fructose corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, etc.), sugar is everywhere. Steer clear of sodas and other sweetened drinks. They pack a punch with calories, and are bad for heart health.
  • Fill your plate with fresh (or frozen) vegetables and fruit. These fill you up, and are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.
  • Healthy fats from nuts, seeds, fish, and avocados are good for your heart, and your cholesterol. Avoid trans fats (hydrogenated oils), and fried foods, since these will raise your bad cholesterol.
  • Whole grains are rich in fiber. Grains like brown rice, oats, corn, whole wheat, and quinoa are full of vitamins and antioxidants. Just avoid those that have been heavily processed.
  • Watch the alcohol. More than 1 alcoholic drink per day, or 2 per day for men, can be bad for heart health. Keep drinking below these levels to keep your body happy.

All of these healthy choices can lead to better blood pressure, better cholesterol levels, weight loss, and better blood sugar control. They can also help you to feel good, what’s the draw back? American Heart Month is a great time to get started.

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