Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. More than 1/2 of Latinas have three or more risk factors which include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity, and smoking. Fortunately, you have the power to prevent and curb risk factors and reduce the chance of a heart attack by 80%. February is American Heart Month, making now the perfect time to focus on your heart health.
The food you eat has a huge impact on your heart. Committing to a healthy diet will help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.
Natalie's 5 Healthy Heart Diet Tips
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables: The USDA recommends filling ½ your plate with frutas and verduras. Fresh produce is key to keeping your heart healthy. In addition to providing your body with necessary vitamins and minerals, plant foods protect blood vessels by wiping out free radicals in the bloodstream. For a quick delicious dish with fruits and veggies, try the grapefruit and spinach salad I share in Cervical Cancer Awareness Month Meatless Monday: Grapefruit Spinach Salad Recipe, or my favorite snack green smoothies, which I recommend in Nutrition: ¡Go Green for your Health!
- Choose whole grains: Whole-grain foods are made with each part of the grain kernel (unlike multi-grain foods which use more than one type of grain) and are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants which can help lower your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol, and keep arteries clear. Look for whole-grain versions of breads and pastas and start your day with a hearty bowl of oatmeal.
- Reduce meat and dairy intake: Animal products can be high in fat and calories, whereas a vegetarian diet can lower cholesterol, blood sugars, and weight. Can’t give up meat entirely? Serve smaller portions or cut the carne from one meal a day or one day a week. Click here to read my Meatless Monday recipes.
- Skip the salt: Reducing your sodium intake can help lower your blood pressure. Skip the table salt and add sabor with flavorful herbs, lime, or spicy peppers. Choose fresh or frozen foods over canned and processed varieties which are often higher in sodium.
- Don’t overeat: Even healthy foods should be eaten in moderation to prevent weight gain. Review recommended portion sizes here, and check out simple ways to maintain a healthy weight in Healthy Weight Awareness Month Meatless Monday: 5 Tips to Make Healthy Eating a Habit.
In addition to healthy eating, adopt these healthy heart habits to lower your risk:
- Keep your weight and stress levels low by getting regular physical activity.
- Quit smoking today or don't even think about starting!
- Schedule regular checkups to monitor cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Always call 9-1-1 at any symptoms of a heart attack: shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the chest or upper abdomen, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure, or extreme fatigue.
Nothing is as important as your health. Keep your heart strong by committing to healthy habits all year long.
¿Need Meatless Monday inspiration? Click here to read more of my recipes.
A teacher by day, The Wise Latina Club’s Natalie Wagner Fierro is the co-founder of the Institute for Student Health. She equally loves food (cooking or dining in Washington’s restaurants) and burning calories by distance running, practicing yoga, and archery. Click here to read more about and connect with Natalie.
Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.What healthy choices do you make regularly to protect your heart?