heart health month

Dietitian’s Dish – February is American Heart Month

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lisa shettle by Lisa Shettle, MS, RDN, CD-N

Happy American Heart Month! It’s a time to remind ourselves to focus on our cardiovascular health. Nutrition choices and lifestyle are key players in reducing our risk for cardiovascular disease.

Here are some basic nutritional strategies you can follow to maintain good heart health:

  1. It’s important to have healthy blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels and your diet can impact those values: 
  • Eating soluble fiber, which is found in foods such as oats, beans, ground flaxseed, fruits and vegetables, has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels. 
  • Avoiding highly processed foods that contain excess salt is also recommended.
  1. A diet specifically designed to manage blood pressure is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet. This dietary pattern focuses on foods that are good sources of potassium, calcium and magnesium, while avoiding foods high in added sugars, saturated fat and sodium (salt). The emphasis is on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy.
  2. The Mediterranean diet is also highly rated for overall heart health. Shop for colorful produce, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. The fiber and phytochemicals in these foods are a boost to a healthy heart. Also include heart-healthy unsaturated fats such as nuts, avocados, and olive oil. While animal foods are a source of dietary cholesterol, our bodies also make cholesterol. Following a well-balanced plant-based may lead to lower cholesterol intake, but this does not always translate to lower blood cholesterol levels.
  3. Follow the Healthy Monday Campaigns for motivating tips to start your week:
  • Meatless Monday. Replacing meat with legumes is a heart-healthy swap.  Legumes—including black beans, lentils, and split peas–are a plant protein option that are a good source of soluble fiber and low in saturated fat (unlike a hamburger) which the American Heart Association and Dietary Guidelines recommend we limit.
  • Move-It Monday. Regular exercise helps to prevent heart disease while also improving overall mental and physical health. The American Heart Association recommends five 30-minute moderate exercise sessions each week. Currently <5% of adults get the recommended amount of exercise! Choose exercises you love and be consistent: Biking, swimming, power yoga, and brisk walking are great choices. It is also simple to add exercise to your daily routine by taking the stairs and parking your car a few blocks away from your destination.
  1.  Here are 2 Heart-Healthy recipes to try:


A registered dietitian provides medical nutrition therapy and is your best source of reliable and evidence-based nutrition information. An RDN can also help you determine measurable and achievable goals within your individualized plan for your best health outcomes.  

BONUS: Services are covered by most health insurance plans!


Source: The American Heart Association

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