Love is in the air this month – that is, love for another as well as yourself. One way to build and maintain that “self-love” is by eating and exercising your way to a healthy heart.

February is American Heart Month and with this come scary statistics about heart disease being the #1 cause of death. Steps can be made to prevent heart disease, and there are simple ways to improve your heart “stats” such as cholesterol and blood pressure. Here are the important roles food and exercise play in daily living:

FOOD PROVIDES ENERGY FOR THE BODY TO FUNCTION
EXERCISE STRENGTHENS THE BODY EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY

Food and exercise are the two key ways you can help control your diabetes, keep your body strong, and take care of your heart. The bottom line is that food will provide your body with adequate energy, and exercise will help your body function more efficiently.

Here are 10 easy-to-remember tips for heart health:

  1. Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day, every 3-4 hours.
  2. Include high fiber foods in these meals.
  3. Foods with low amounts of saturated fat. Omit or reduce butter, fat on meat, skin on poultry, pastries, whole-fat dairy foods/milk or yogurt or cheese.
  4. Eat foods that are dark and colorful.
  5. Reduce sodium intake to 1500 – 2500 mg per day.
  6. Combine essential food groups: protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
  7. Exercise 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes per session.
  8. Include strength training for muscle tone, bone strength and flexibility.
  9. Include aerobic exercise activities you enjoy (walking, bicycling, sports, etc.) and you’ll more likely stick with your exercise program.
  10. Be reasonable and commit to 1-2 changes initially, so you’re more apt to succeed.

You owe it to yourself, your loved ones, and your heart to make the right food choices, as well as engage in exercise. Remember to drink water to replace any fluids lost during exercise. High blood sugars may have a dehydrating effect, so keep the water close!

Most importantly, have fun – and a Happy Valentine’s Day!


NOTE: As always, consult your doctor to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs. Always consult with a health professional prior to indulging in a new activity. Lifting weights may be contraindicated with retinopathy or hypertension.

Marci Sloane

Marci Sloane, MS, RD, LD/N, CDE, is a registered and licensed dietitian/nutritionist and certified diabetes educator. She grew up in NYC where she graduated with a degree in Nutrition and Physiology from Teachers College at Columbia University.