Heart shapes may be popping up on candies and cards with Valentine’s Day around the corner, but this month, consider showing your heart some love. February also brings American Heart Month, an opportunity to bring awareness to heart disease and the importance of cardiovascular health.
American Heart Month | Your Diet Makes a Difference
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1 Making certain lifestyle choices – like choosing heart-healthy foods – could help reduce your risk. Here, we offer an overview of heart disease, what foods to include or avoid for a heart-healthy diet and other steps you can take to know your risk.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease, also called atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), can occur when a fatty material called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. Plaque build-up causes arteries to narrow, limiting the blood supply to the heart (a condition called coronary artery disease) and other organs – creating a risk for heart attack and/or stroke.2 Though there are other types of heart disease, coronary artery disease is the most common, according to the CDC.3
While anyone can develop heart disease,3 making healthy lifestyle choices can play a big role in avoiding its complications.4 Though some risk factors cannot be changed, like age or family history, it’s important to pay attention to those you can manage, including:5
- High blood pressure
- Unhealthy blood cholesterol levels
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Physical inactivity
- Tobacco use
What are Heart-Healthy Foods?
Choosing a heart-healthy diet is a simple step that you can take to help reduce risk factors like high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels and obesity. Consider making space for these heart-healthy foods on your plate:6
- Whole grains
- Healthy sources of protein (like legumes and nuts, fish and seafood, low-fat or non-fat dairy, and lean and unprocessed meat or poultry–if you eat meat)
Additionally, try limiting your intake of:6
- Processed foods
- Added sugars
- Foods high in salt
- Saturated fat7
Ready to get cooking? Check out the American Heart Association for Heart-Check certified recipes. Go the extra mile for your heart health by engaging in regular physical activity and refraining from smoking, vaping or using nicotine products.6
Know Your Heart Numbers
The the first step in reducing your risk for heart disease is to know if your heart is healthy. Healthcare providers use a variety of screening tests to monitor heart health. The American Heart Association lists the following as key tests:8
- Blood pressure
- Cholesterol (fasting lipoprotein profile/ lipid test)
- Blood glucose test
- Weight/ Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Waist circumference
Heart Health Testing from BioReference
Cholesterol testing is an important part of knowing your risk for heart disease – measuring your total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides. In addition to a basic lipid test, Heart Health testing from BioReference includes testing for other clinically relevant markers – like lipoproteins and inflammation markers – as well as other independent risk factors. The BioReference Heart Health Panel provides a complete picture of cardiovascular disease risk.
Show Your Heart Some Love for American Heart Month
Managing the many factors that can affect your heart health can be a tricky balance, but a healthy diet and lifestyle can go a long way. If you’re ready to consult your healthcare provider about heart health testing, visit our patient guide for additional information, including 10 helpful questions to ask. Show your heart a little love this February, and commit to improving your cardiovascular health with a heart-healthy diet.