February is the month for hearts in two special ways, Valentine’s Day, and American Heart Month. Benefits.gov is sharing awareness and tips on how to prevent heart disease and how to find the health resources you need. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. While this is a serious issue, there are many ways heart disease can be prevented. One key lifestyle change to prevent the onset of heart disease is proper nutrition and diet.
Eating healthy can still mean eating delicious meals throughout the day. If you are in need of assistance, or unsure where to start, we encourage you to use the Benefit Finder to locate information on programs you may be eligible to receive. Visit our food/nutrition page to view more information on benefits available in your state. You can also find hundreds of quick, easy, and healthy recipes that are great for your heart and your wallet, thanks to the American Heart Association. Watching what you eat may seem like a small piece of your daily routine, but little things do add up, and your body will thank you for it!
A few tips to keep in mind for heart healthy nutrition are:
- Watch your sodium intake: High levels of sodium intake increase the chances of developing heart disease. You can season your food with ingredients other than salt (herbs, fresh onions, garlic, and lemons). This approach can add rich flavors to your food and help prevent high blood pressure, which is linked to heart disease. You can also cook with unsalted butters and vegetable cooking oils. As an additional tip, if your food comes with a seasoning packet, use only part of the packet. This will lower the amount of sodium in the food.
- Load up on fruits and vegetables: All fruits and vegetables are great for your body, but some are especially good for your heart. Fruits such as apples, bananas, and oranges, and vegetables such as, spinach, tomatoes, and broccoli, are delicious additions to your daily diet that can help you to pinpoint nutrition required to create a healthy heart. Incorporating a few of these into each meal will not only help maintain cholesterol levels, but will give you great amounts of energy too.
- Stay away from processed food: Processed foods usually contain more sodium than fresh food options. When eating canned fruits and vegetables, make sure to get items packed in water with “low sodium” and/or “no sugar added.”
- Check the Nutrition Facts label: Using the Nutrition Facts label to compare different brands is a secret that many people overlook. Be sure to purchase items with a 5% daily value (dv) or less of sodium. Look to purchase items with high levels of potassium and protein, and low levels of saturated fat. In addition, when purchasing fresh meats and poultry, be sure they are labeled with “no added sodium.”
Caring for your heart through a healthy lifestyle is critical to preventing heart disease. In addition to healthy eating habits, it is also recommended that you check your blood pressure regularly. You can also manage stress levels and talk with your primary care physician about routine heart screenings. Regular heart screenings can be found under commonly covered benefits through Medicaid. Benefits.gov provides many other opportunities to find information on your health and nutrition needs. Be sure to use these tips and resources during this #AmericanHeartMonth, and every month thereafter to help prevent heart disease, and encourage your friends and family to do the same!