Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women. There are 720,000 deaths every year as a result of heart attacks. This month, we need to educate and push people to think about lifestyle changes and prevention when it comes to heart disease. There are many small changes you can make today to help your heart. I have a great mnemonic for you to help remember and please pass this along to your children.

1. Fiber.

  • Fiber is the roughage that comes with vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts.
  • It suppresses appetite, improves your blood sugar and cholesterol profile, decreases inflammation and slows aging.
  • People should aim to get 30 grams of fiber every day.
  • People often consume their daily fiber in the form of processed grains, which has many adverse impacts on our health.
  • Instead, aim for a diet consisting of:
    • 3 cups of vegetables
    • 2 pieces of fruit (such as a cup of berries or an apple)
    • 2 handfuls of nuts and seeds
    • ½ to 1 cup of beans

2. Eat more healthy fat.

  • You don't need to follow a low-fat diet to be healthy — but you do need to eat more healthy fats.
  • Clinical studies show that eating fats from seafood, virgin olive oil and nuts decreases your risk for a heart attack and stroke, without increasing weight.
  • Try eating fats from avocado, seeds and dark chocolate, too.
  • These healthy fats are critical for your brain, and help reduce inflammation.

3. Eat clean protein.

  • Avoid commercial fatty meats and dairy that are loaded with hormones and pesticides.
  • Instead, eat wild seafood, such as grilled salmon, baked sole, and steamed shellfish.
  • For poultry, focus on free-range, organic-fed options.
  • Keep organic, free-range eggs on the menu as well.
  • If you like red meat, aim for grass-fed, grass-finished, organically raised beef and pork products.
  • If you're in a restaurant and can’t find any clean protein options, then opt for lean, since the less fatty cuts have fewer toxins. That means chicken and turkey breast, seafood, and if you eat red meat, pork tenderloin and sirloin.
  • For clean protein plus fiber, add in beans, as they improve blood sugar and cholesterol profiles.

4. Drink more beneficial beverages.

  • Start by drinking more water - at least 4 cups per day.
  • For something with caffeine - green tea, unsweetened tea, or mint tea
  • Coffee: 1-3 cups of coffee per day
  • Wine with dinner is ok too — just be sure to limit your alcohol intake.
  • Be careful drinking fruit juice. Without the fiber and pulp, fruit juice is closer to drinking soda than actually eating fruit.

5. Savor more flavors.

  • Healthy foods must taste delicious for people to actually eat them.
  • Spices and herbs like garlic, Italian herbs, curry spices, and hot chili spices make food taste great
  • They also help block arterial plaque growth, boost your metabolism and lower inflammation.
  • Chocolate: The fats in dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) act like olive oil in your body and it’s good for your heart and brain. 

ABC's of Heart Health

  • A: Ask your doctor if aspirin is right for you. Aspirin has been talked about a lot as a prevention method for heart attacks in those who have a family history of heart disease. I would not recommend taking this until you consult with your doctor. 
  • B: Know your blood pressure. 120/80 or less than is normal.
  • C: Understand what your cholesterol levels are. LDL (bad)  HDL (good) cholesterol are different and you should know these numbers like you know your age.
  • D: Diet - Limit your intake of salt, sugar and fat. It really is the killer.
  • E: Exercise - You should be active at least 3x per week for 30 minutes.
  • F: Fiber - Eat at least 3 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. More fiber equals good for your heart.
  • G: Genetics: Understand your family history of heart disease. If it is aggressive in your family, I would recommend seeing a doctor for specific prevention methods to your case.
  • H: Habit- This is perhaps the most challenging. Your daily, weekly, monthly behaviors matter. Be mindful and purposeful when it comes to your health. Every choice you make matters.
  • I: Increase your intake of organic food. This limits the amount of preservatives and pesticides in your body.
  • J: Java time! For coffee lovers, 3-4 cups per day has been shown to decrease some types of cancer like colon, diabetes and dementia. Limit the amount milk or sugar or better yet, try it black.