The number one cause of death in the United States is cardiovascular disease.
In fact, 1 in 4 Americans (1 in 3 women!) will die from cardiovascular disease in some form, whether that be through a stroke, heart attack or even high blood pressure.
I am not writing about this to ‘scare’ you.
But I do believe it is important that we are all aware of the importance of heart health.
Unfortunately, many people do not think about it until something ‘bad’ has happened.
The good news is that a healthy heart is very much related to your lifestyle choices, especially your diet, so you are in control.
And since February is National Heart Month, this is the ideal time to talk about how each of us can be proactive about our cardiovascular health.
February: The Month to Celebrate Our Hearts
While February is forever associated with Valentine’s Day and ‘affairs of the heart,’ it is not just about pink roses or red decorations.
National Heart Month was first celebrated in February 1964 when President Lyndon B. Johnson dedicated the month to raise awareness about cardiovascular health.
Here are some key US statistics that underline the importance of tackling heart disease and why National Heart Month is therefore so important:
- Other than a brief period (1918-1920) when pneumonia and influenza topped the charts, ‘diseases of the heart’ has been the top cause of death in the United States since 1910.
- 85.6 million Americans are currently living with cardiovascular diseases in some form.
- Approximately 29 percent of adults in the United States have high blood pressure. That is around 75 million people!
And while these facts are a bit sobering, to say the least, the good news is that cardiovascular disease can be prevented with lifestyle choices and sound preventive measures.
Top of the list?
Following a heart-healthy diet.
Your Diet is Crucial To Your Heart Health
As we have discussed in many of our past articles, one of the absolute best ways to eat ‘heart healthy’ is to follow a low fat, whole food, plant-based diet, which is naturally void of cholesterol and saturated animal fats.
All you have to do is examine people from different cultures around the world who enjoy a primarily plant-based lifestyle and you will see that cardiovascular disease in those populations is virtually non-existent.
So, pack your diet filled with fruits and berries, a variety of beans, green vegetables like spinach or kale, as well as whole grains and seeds, and you will go a long way towards protecting your heart.
How to Celebrate National Heart Month
Here are a few ways that you can celebrate:
- Know Your Numbers: Your cholesterol level is intimately tied to your risk for heart disease. Take some time to understand what ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol is, what your own cholesterol numbers are, and why you can still be at risk if your levels are ‘normal.’
- Make Your Health a Priority: Diet is important and so is regular physical activity. Make a commitment to not only eat better, but also be physically active 3-5 times a week. Start slow (even just 15 minutes of walking) and gradually increase as you build up your strength.
- Try a New Recipe: Remember that almost any recipe can receive a plant-based makeover! Here is our take on an Italian classic—Fettuccine Alfredo—that is not only delicious but also heart ‘healthy’!
However you choose to celebrate National Heart Month, remember that you have control over your cardiovascular health.
Make smart choices during the year, particularly when it comes to your diet.
And recognize that ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ In other words, it is much better to prevent something in the first place than to try to fix it after it has happened.
Choose to make your heart health a priority this month…and every month to come!