By Aparna Mele
February is all about hearts, and not just the candy kind. It’s also National American Heart Month, a 56 year tradition to increase awareness of, and keep families and communities free from heart disease, the No. 1 killer of Americans.
This month reinforces the importance of heart health. Consider this: cardiovascular disease, which is heart disease and stroke combined, kills about 2,300 people a day. According to the American Heart Association, obesity in both youth and adults is at an all-time high, youth are being diagnosed with heart disease earlier than ever and people just ZIP codes apart can live 25 years less than their neighbors because of disparities in health. Heart disease kills more people than all forms of cancer combined. More sobering is the fact that 83% believe that heart attacks can be prevented but aren’t motivated to do anything, 72% of Americans don’t consider themselves at risk for heart disease, and 58% put no effort into improving their heart health.
While ongoing medical advances are helping cardiovascular patients live longer, unhealthy lifestyle choices combined with rising obesity rates in all age groups has significantly hindered progress fighting heart disease. Heart disease remains preventable in most cases with healthy dietary and lifestyle choices which include not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood sugar and cholesterol, treating high blood pressure, getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week and getting regular checkups.
An easy first step to eating healthy is to include fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack. All forms (fresh, frozen, canned and dried) and all colors count. The best way to get all of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need to keep your heart healthy is to eat a variety of colorful fruits and veggies. Add color to your plate each day with the five main color groups. Use this informatic from American Heart Association to add color to your plate and your life, and eat the rainbow!