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Take Heart: Guidelines to Keep Your Ticker Strong
By Erin Kuh, MBA, RD/CD

Healthy Heart
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In celebration of American Heart Month, commit to taking better care of your heart. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., but by making diet changes, exercising regularly, managing stress, and getting adequate sleep, you can equip yourself against this silent killer. The following tips go well beyond the most common heart healthy guidelines, which include decreasing sodium, fat, eating more fruits and vegetables, and quitting smoking.

1. Eat LESS sodium and MORE potassium: Studies show that people who improve their blood pressure the most not only eat less salt, but also eat more foods high in potassium such as beans, leafy greens, potatoes, fish, avocados, mushrooms, and bananas

2. Up your antioxidant intake by replacing processed foods with whole foods: Eating 2 fruits and 3-5 cups of veggies per day provides lots of antioxidants, which help prevent and repair damage to your arteries. Eating more whole grains such as oats, brown rice, quinoa, and barley instead of processed grain products such as cereal, crackers, and bread, in addition to replacing meat with other sources of protein such as beans and nuts, can help up your intake of antioxidants. Spices, coffee, and tea are also great and often overlooked sources of antioxidants.

3. Up your omega-3 intake: Omega-3 fats help reduce inflammation, which is connected to heart disease, and most Americans don't get enough. Fish, grass-fed meat or wild game, omega-3 eggs, organic dairy, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts are all good sources. You must cut back on unhealthy fats found in fried foods, baked goods, processed meals in order to get the benefit from omega-3s. High-quality omega-3 supplements can be taken if your diet doesn't include these foods on a regular basis.*

Maintaining a healthy blood pressure and cholesterol level is not only impacted by what you eat but your genes, quality and duration of your sleep, and how you manage stress - which can be harder to control. What you eat everyday can make the difference between keeping your heart healthy and strong, or having serious health issues.

*Always consult your doctor or care provider prior to starting any supplement.

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