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The Heart of the Matter

Happy Friday eve friends! Heart Month is always a great month to reflect on your lifestyle choices and heart health. This February, I had a great time discussing simple swaps for a healthier heart with both Fox 17 (see the video link below) and the Walker Chamber of Commerce.


One of my main focuses with heart health is knowing your numbers (blood sugar, blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and body weight). Many people overestimate how healthy they are. In particular, a recent survey from Consumer Reports revealed that 90% of Americans think their diets are healthy, while in reality, 68% of Americans are overweight or obese. The resolution to this problem? Know your numbers! The numbers never lie.

With¬†1 of every 3 deaths caused by cardiovascular disease, it is essential that you take these simple swaps seriously because it affects so many Americans. If that statistic doesn’t scare you, think about this. When discussing heart health with the Chamber of Commerce, I asked the audience to raise their hands if they have known anyone with a cardiovascular condition, such as stroke, coronary heart disease, heart arrhythmias, heart attack, high blood pressure, and heart failure. Not surprisingly but sadly, almost everyone in the audience raised their hands. Heart health affects EVERYONE, not just those with a genetic history.

The great news?

Diet and lifestyle choices play a major role in heart health, making heart health within your control! By watching the amount of added sugar, salt, omega 3 fatty acid intake, and dietary fiber in your diet, you can¬†avoid those scary statistics listed above. Here’s how…

Simple Swaps to a Healthier Heart:

Choose whole grains over refined grains.


  • Whole grains are a great source of dietary fiber.
  • Getting adequate amounts of dietary fiber can help improve blood cholesterol, and lower risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Whole grains are also excellent sources of B-vitamins, iron, magnesium, and selenium.
  • Shoot for making half of your grains whole grains or dietary fiber goal of at least 25 grams daily.
  • Types of whole grains: whole wheat or whole grain bread, oatmeal, brown rice, popcorn, barley, farro, and bulgur.
  • Not a big whole grain person? Consider adding or sneaking in other types of whole grains, such as chia seeds or ground flax seed to cereal (hot or cold), yogurt, smoothies, etc.

Choose fatty fish over other types of fish.


  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna are examples of fatty fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids can help decrease risk of abnormal heartbeats, decrease triglyceride levels, reduce growth of heart plaque build-up, and lower blood pressure.
  • The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week.
  • Not a big fish person? You can get other healthy fats (i.e. mono and poly-unsaturated fatty acids) into your diet from other foods, such as:
    • Avocadoes
    • Canola or olive oil
    • Soybeans
    • Walnuts
    • Flaxseed
    • Chia seeds
    • Omega-3 fortified foods, such as eggs, milk, or yogurt.


Opt for low or zero calorie drinks over sugary beverages to help reduce added sugar intake.


  • Too much added sugar intake from sugary beverages, desserts (ice cream, sweetened yogurt, sweetened milk), candy, cookies, and refined grains can increase your risk of obesity and diabetes.
  • The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar intake to 6 teaspoons (24 grams) for women and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) to men.
  • Instead, hydrate yourself with low calorie beverages, such as water, unsweetened tea, or water infused with lemon, lime, cucumber, basil, or fresh mint.

Choose canned vegetables labeled “no salt added” or frozen vegetables without added sauces.


  1. Excess salt intake, especially from pre-packaged and processed foods, can put you at risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, kidney disease, headaches, and kidney stones.
  2. The American Heart Association recommends a daily salt intake of less than 2000mg with a ultimate goal of less than 1500mg per day.
  3. Be sure to drain and rinse your canned beans or vegetables. This can cut the sodium back by 40%!

Participate in meatless Monday!


  • Enjoy a meatless day once a week to help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Substitute a Portobello mushroom for a beef patty when making a burger or replace ground beef with extra or different beans in chili to help reduce your saturated fat intake.


For more information on heart health, be sure to check out

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