by Amanda Just

Amid all the social media posts about date ideas and decadent treats for V-day, you have hopefully found some information about American Heart Month, a campaign that lasts through February. According to the American Heart Association:

  • Heart disease kills more people than all forms of cancer combined.
  • Heart attacks affect more people every year than the population of Dallas, Texas.
  • 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.

But another research-backed fact is that a plant-based diet can reduce heart disease risk by 40%, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Of course, it takes more than diet to keep your heart in great shape. The following tips combine healthy eating and lifestyle changes that increase your heart health. Start turning them into habits today!

  1. Eat more fiber. Fiber helps reduce bad cholesterol by absorbing it and removing it more quickly from your body. Add more fiber to your diet by increasing your consumption of beans, fruits, and vegetables! 
  2. Consume plant-based Omega 3s. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, eating omega-3 fatty acids can reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, and it can also lower your cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids are not made in the body, so the only way to get them is through your diet. Plant-based sources include flaxseeds, soy beans, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
  3. Get moving! Everyone should aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise, 5 days a week. This means moving and grooving to the point of breaking a sweat and elevating your heart rate. Walking, jogging, running, swimming, biking, dancing… even working in the yard can get your blood pumping. Make sure that the rest of the day, you aren’t sitting too much. If you sit a lot at work, get up and take breaks frequently: take a short, brisk walk on your break, stretch, and drink plenty of water (which then forces you to take more breaks!). 
  4. Do more of what you love. Lowering stress is crucial for good heart health and overall health. Meditation and yoga are great stress relievers. Volunteering in your community for a cause you love is another way to increase good vibes. (If you volunteer in a community garden, food bank, or as a dog walker at an animal rescue, that’s a two-for-one since you’ll be getting exercise, too!) If you feel your stress or anxiety is becoming difficult to manage, find a therapist who can help you.
  5. Limit your alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol every day to excess can seriously increase your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. There has been debate over whether or not red wine is truly heart-healthy, but there are a lot of grey areas in the research (what kind of diet was the wine drinker already eating in the study, other health factors, etc.). Abstaining from alcohol doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a fancy drink. Opt for a vegan mocktail instead! Try a Sparkling Pineapple Mocktail, Spicy Watermelon Mocktail, or these three simple summery ones!

*DISCLAIMER: The content in this post isn’t meant to serve as health or medical advice. We recommend speaking to a registered dietitian or medical professional who is experienced with plant-based nutrition with any questions, etc.