February is American Heart Month, which is celebrated every year to raise awareness for heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. In honor of American Hearth Month, we sat down with Frederick Basilico, MD, physician in chief for medicine and chief of cardiology at NEBH, to discuss tips for heart healthy diet and exercise.
What is the best exercise to keep your heart healthy?
Heart healthy exercise doesn’t have to include a gym membership or expensive equipment. For example, taking a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes a day five times a week can improve your circulation, increase oxygen intake, lower blood pressure, and make your heart stronger, allowing it to pump more blood. If walking isn’t for you, biking, swimming, or using an elliptical or rowing machine are all great forms of heart healthy exercise.
What do you recommend for a heart healthy diet?
The overall goals of a heart healthy diet are to decrease saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol intake while increasing unsaturated fat and fiber intake. Focus on increased intake of fruits and vegetables. Good sources of protein include poultry without skin, fish and legumes. Consider a Mediterranean diet or DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.
Any other recommendations?
Everyone should know their blood pressure and blood lipid (which measures cholesterol) total profiles. If left untreated, high blood pressure can increase the risk of a heart attack, and high cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease. Discuss evaluation, management and treatment of elevated blood pressure or lipid profiles with your physician.