It’s American Heart Month!

By Hannah Chow, Be Well Blogger

February is American Heart Month!  Studies show that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in America – but don’t worry! Prevention when you’re younger is key, and there are plenty of small changes that can help prevent heart disease.  Your heart drives everything in your body – keeping your heart happy and healthy keeps the rest of your body in tip-top shape.

Eating

What you eat is the most important and the easiest change to prevent heart disease.

Sodium is a big no-no for heart health.  That does not mean that you should never eat sodium – sodium is an important part of the human diet.  However, eating too much food that contains a lot of salt (i.e. a lot of fast foods) is detrimental to your health.

Saturated and trans fats also contribute to heart disease risk.  Trans fats raise your bad cholesterol levels (and lower your good cholesterol levels).  They can be found in a lot of fried foods and typically foods that we all like to eat (donuts, baked goods, fried chicken, pizza, cookies, etc.)

Here are some tips to help you eat with your heart in mind:

  • Try cooking at home at least three times a week, if you can. Cooking at home lets you control what you’re putting in your body.  Use unhydrogenated vegetable oils (canola oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, etc.)
  • Load up on fruits, vegetables, and proteins (fish and poultry are ideal)
  • Check processed food ingredients: try to avoid partially hydrogenated oils and look for 0g trans fat on the label
  • Click here for some heart healthy recipes: http://recipes.millionhearts.hhs.gov/recipes

 

Exercise

Cardiovascular exercise keeps the heart in mint condition.  There are lots of ways to incorporate cardio into your workout routine: running, swimming, biking, HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training) – the list in endless.  The American Heart Association recommends that you try to work in 150 minutes of cardio per week.

If you are newer to exercise, or simply don’t have the time, remember that something is always better than nothing.  Walking to class even counts!

 

Smoking

If smoking is a habit for you, take steps to reduce or quit smoking.  Remember, USC is now a smoke free campus!

 

Finding ways to keep your heart healthy will ultimately make you feel happy.  Remember that taking care of your body (and mind) is the first step to achieving anything – if your body doesn’t work, then the rest of you doesn’t work.  Please take some time this month (and every month!) to listen to your body.

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