I can’t believe it’s already the second week of February! It honestly feels like the year just started and time really doesn’t want to slow down for me haha! A few more weeks and it’ll be the best month of the year (My birthday month and National Nutrition month yayy!!) However, right now it’s American Heart Month which is also very important! I think when we hear “February”, what often comes to mind is Valentine’s Day. We think of the cute gifts, the cards, the chocolates, and spending time with that special someone. It’s rare that we consider the state of our heart. After reading this post it’s something I want you to seriously think about. What’s the condition of your heart, both physically and spiritually? If someone were take a look at your heart what would they find? From a physical standpoint, would they find a strong healthy heart or a heart that’s been battered as a result of poor nutrition and fitness? From a spiritual standpoint, would they find a heart that is filled with pure unconditional love or a heart that is seared with bitterness, anger, and envy? It’s time for a heart check! 🙂
What are You Feeding Your Body?
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, heart disease is the number one cause of death in America. 1 in 3 adults have high blood pressure which is a segway to heart disease and stroke. For me, this matter hits way too close to home to keep silent about. I’ve seen my grandmother rushed to the hospital in the midst of a stroke, and I’ve lost a great grandmother to a stroke. I know these things are very personal, but this is why I study nutrition. This is why I want to be a dietitian. I hope that I can change lives; and help individuals and families see the importance of their health.
So What Can You Do to Protect Your Heart?
- Watch the salt. Excessive intake of sodium is one of the main contributors to high blood pressure. Try to reduce added salt by flavoring with herbs, spices, and other aromatics such as onions and garlic. Read nutrition labels and watch out for the sodium content of prepackaged items like soups, sauces, and canned vegetables. If you typically eat canned vegetables, go for the “no salt added” option. This way you can control exactly how much salt is added.
- Get a variety of high fiber foods. Fiber is good for overall digestion, but can also be good for your heart as well. Soluble fiber aids in reducing LDL (aka bad) cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol is one of the causes of heart disease as it can build up in the bloodstream. Some of my favorite heart healthy high fiber foods include oatmeal, green apples, pears, grapefruit, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, and beans! Don’t be afraid to try out some new recipes containing these foods. Check out my recipe for “Vegetarian Chili” here, it’s high in fiber and flavor and will definitely keep you warm on these cold days! 🙂
- Go for foods with Omega 3’s. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Omega 3’s aid in lowering triglyceride levels which in turn helps prevent heart attacks. This healthy fat also helps with reducing inflammation. This is beneficial not just in the case of muscles after exercise, but also in the case of our heart, arteries, and blood vessels. Some excellent sources of Omega 3’s include walnuts and flaxseed. Another good source of healthy fat are pecans! I love to sprinkle them on my oatmeal and salads. The package I bought even had the little American Heart Association symbol on it! 🙂
|There’s oatmeal under there! 🙂|
- Watch the Saturated Fat. This is fat that is solid at room temperature, but melts once heated to high temperatures. Just image what it does in your arteries. Consuming too much can lead to clogged arteries as a result of an increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Try to avoid hydrogenated fats and trans fats as these have the same effect. When cooking opt for monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats as much as possible. This includes olive oils, canola oils, and other vegetable oils.
- Get moving. Our hearts are a major muscle in our body. It pumps blood to where we need it and it’s crucial to our every day getting up and walking around. We make that muscle stronger by working it and exercising. The American Heart Association recommends a goal of 30 minutes a day for 5 days every week. This could be walking, running, jumping rope, biking, or just climbing stairs.
I want to encourage you to make a few changes this month concerning your heart health. As cliche as this may sound, you only have one heart so treat it right. Alot of the damage to our blood vessels is irreversible but if we take preventive steps now to protect our heart we can worry less in the future. In the same way we should be concerned about the spiritual state of our heart.
What are You Feeding Your Soul?
I’ve had to ask myself this question alot lately. Are the things around me nourishing my spirit or the exact opposite? Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” This is such a powerful verse. If everything I do flows from my heart, I definitely want to make sure it’s positive. For me guarding my heart means focusing on Christ always. Lately I haven’t been doing that as much as I need to and I can tell you it doesn’t feel good. When I take my focus off of Christ my heart is full of worry, anxiety, anger…just everything He would not want me to have in my heart. So how do I fix this? I pray. I ask God to create a clean heart in me and to fill me with His love. It’s amazing how just praying over an issue can soften your heart on the matter.
Would you say your heart is close to God are far from him? I want to encourage you allow Him to fill you up with His love. There is nothing to be gained by having a heart that’s hard, bitter, and full of hate. God wants your heart to be pure. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8).” For me having a pure heart means to have the love of Christ in my heart. If you want to know what Christ’s love is like; look at His life and how He selflessly went to the Cross because He loved us. Look at how gracious He is with us every single day. As I type this I speak to myself also. Serious #HeartCheck!! I realize that I do not always have the love of Christ in me; in fact sometimes I’m very self focused. One thing God has been placing heavy on my spirit is having a heart for others; to genuinely care for others. The only way I can do that is by being rooted in Him and dying to myself every day.
I want to encourage you to take a look at the condition of your heart and keep this verse in mind: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Consider the condition of your heart this American Heart Month! Much Love!!!! 🙂 #HeartCheck