February is American Heart Month! 7 Habits for a Healthy Heart

girl-heart-in-handHeart disease remains the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, accountable for 1 in every 4 deaths each year. The good news is that we are not helpless against it, and together we can help prevent heart disease by making smarter choices about what we eat and how we live.

Celebrated each year in February, American Heart Month is the perfect time to start making small but important changes that will have a lasting impact on heart health, and a great place to start is with the Life’s Simple 7™ Action Plan from the American Heart Association (AHA):

  1. Get Active: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking) each day, five times per week, to help lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Children should get 60 minutes a day, every day.
  2. Control Cholesterol: Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels protects your arteries and helps prevent blockages that can lead to heart disease and stroke. Get a regular screening, stay active, and eat foods that are low in cholesterol and unhealthy fats.
  3. Eat Better: A healthy diet is critical to preventing heart disease. Eat plenty of healthy fats (especially from fish and olive oil) along with low-sugar fruits, non-starchy veggies, protein, nuts and legumes. Eliminate added sugars, starchy carbohydrates and trans
  4. Manage Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range with the right diet and lifestyle helps protect your heart as well as the blood vessels supporting it.
  5. Lose Weight: Being overweight or obese increases your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes—all of which may contribute to heart disease. Even losing five or 10 pounds can make a big difference when it comes to heart health!
  6. Reduce Blood Sugar: High blood sugar increases the risk of developing heart disease. Check your blood sugar levels regularly, and eliminate added sugars. Reduce your intake of carbohydrates from starchy foods such as breads, pasta and starchy veggies.
  7. Stop Smoking: Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing heart disease because of the damage smoking does to the entire circulatory system. Quitting is the one of the best things you can do for your heart!

This month, you can help raise awareness about heart disease and spread the word about the benefits of adopting the Life’s Simple 7™ Action for a healthier, happier heart. Be sure to get the word out in your community!

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Study Links Mediterranean Diet & Healthy Aging

Do you know about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet? Countless studies have linked this way of eating—which focuses on consuming plenty of healthy fats (especially from fish and olive oil), leafy green veggies, low-sugar fruits, nuts and legumes—to improved cardiovascular health, along with healthy blood sugar, weight management and more. Now, scientists believe it may also be linked to healthy aging.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston examined more than 4,500 adult women and found that the chromosomes of those who followed a Mediterranean-style diet had longer telomeres, which are associated with longer life expectancy and a lower risk of age-related disease. Telomeres are the protective structures at the end of our chromosomes that safeguard important genetic information from being destroyed as we age.

While the study authors plan to explore their findings further, in part to determine if the effects are similar in men, they agree there is a clear link between certain dietary habits and healthier aging.

“The health benefits of greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet—reduction of overall mortality, increased longevity and reduced incidence of chronic diseases, especially major cardiovascular diseases—have been consistently demonstrated,” said senior author Dr. Immaculata De Vivo in a recent article. She went on to say the results of this new study further support the health benefits of adhering to a Mediterranean diet.

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