Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, but your own heart needs just as much love and care as that special someone in your life.
This Valentine’s Day, show your heart some love.
We know you want to be around for your loved ones for a long time, so it is never too early (or too late) to start thinking about heart health.
One way to do that is to quit bad habits like smoking. You can reduce your risk of heart disease by 50 percent after just one year of being smoke-free.
Maintaining a heart-healthy diet is another way to keep it ticking. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, at least four or five cups per day. Fish, preferably oily fish high in omega-3, should be a part of your regular diet. Salmon and tuna are good options and shellfish, like oysters and mussels, are also high in omega-3. Try to swap red meats for fish twice per week. Whole grains are rich in fiber and you should include three servings in your daily diet. Aim for four servings per week of nuts, seeds and legumes like chickpeas and lentils. They are high in protein and fiber. Opt for unsalted versions when possible.
Like sweets? Me, too. Treat your loved one to some “good for your heart” ones this Valentine’s Day. The American Heart Association has plenty of heart-healthy dessert recipes, but you do not have to spend hours in the kitchen baking them.
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, soluble fiber and minerals like magnesium, iron and copper. Some studies show dark chocolate (with 70 percent or higher cocoa content) can actually improve your health and reduce your risk of heart disease. It is one of the few foods that both satisfies your taste buds and provides significant health benefits. Enjoy!
Make exercise a part of your daily routine. Moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes per day will help you burn calories and maintain a healthy weight. Regular physical activity, even for just a few minutes at a time, can lower your blood pressure. Exercise also helps to reduce stress levels, which can directly affect a person’s risk factor for heart disease.
Every year, the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA encourages a little heart-healthy competition. This year, Fat Tuesday is Treadmill Tuesday at all Tampa YMCA (including the Plant City Y) and YMCA of the Suncoast locations. Help your favorite Y win the challenge by logging some miles on the treadmill. Walk, jog or run for fun to help your Y win. Good luck!
Angela Fulgieri is a Program Director for the Tampa Metropolitan YMCA. Write her at observerfitness@ gmail.com.