Many of us share the childhood memory of cutting out heart shapes to make cards for our classmates on Valentine’s Day, February 14th. So it’s fitting that in the U.S. & Canada February is Heart Month. Although a person’s risk for heart disease is partly determined by factors out of our control, such as family history or gender, there are lifestyle factors that we can control, such as diet & exercise. Of the six major risk factors for heart disease, four of them (obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, & diabetes) are affected by the food choices a person makes.
Although newspaper articles & TV segments may leave us confused, due to new and sometimes contradictory advice, there is actually a good consensus among health authorities as to what makes up a heart healthy diet. There are a number of reliable sources of information for someone who wants to lower the risk of developing heart disease, or to treat already established disease. The American Heart Association has a website with a link entitled “Getting Healthy” which includes practical diet information. The Mayo Clinic’s website has a link that you can access by Googling “heart healthy diet” that spells out foods to limit & foods to choose, as well as sample diets. The site lists eight steps to prevent heart disease, including abstinence from smoking & exercise. It’s possible to make informed food choices & enjoy a tasty, satisfying, but healthier diet. I hope that we can all take those steps to a healthier future.
By Myles Zuckerman, MD.