It’s time for makeover of your heart’s health

Who doesn’t love a makeover? This type of transformation gives confidence and a feeling of rejuvenation. After a makeover, many individuals have a smile on their face and an extra bounce in their step, feeling as if they can conquer the world.

But this time I’m not talking about the manicure, pedicure, new hair style or brand new outfit type of makeover; February is American Heart Month, and it is time to give yourself a heart-healthy makeover.

The satisfaction and health benefits you will receive from your lifestyle change will last much longer than your highlights or new pair of boots.

Here are just a few tips to help you start your heart-healthy makeover:

Nutrition: A heart-healthy eating plan packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients can be one of your biggest weapons to prevent heart disease.

Be sure to eat from all food groups; consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, beans and nuts will give you a nutrient-rich diet. If you’re leaving out a food group, you might be missing out on important nutrients your body needs to be healthy.

Research has shown that incorporating fish, like salmon or tuna, which have omega-3 fatty acids, can help lower the risk of irregular heart beat or plaque buildup in your arteries. Just as important is taking the time to read food labels. This will make you aware of the serving size, ingredients and how much of certain nutrients that you need to limit.

Cooking: Broaden your culinary skills to include heart-healthy cooking techniques. Use healthier fats: Ditch the butter, lard and bacon fat. Try using olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, or nonfat cooking spray; a little goes a long way with these better-for-you fats.

Fried pickles and fried chicken are a favorite of mine, but frying is a high-fat cooking method. We should be thinking bake, stir-fry, sauté, grill, broil and steam. Trying these food preparation methods might surprise you and your taste buds.

Exercise: We all have excuses not to exercise. Mine is “I just can’t find the time between work and taking care of my two young children.” Let’s leave those excuses behind and give ourselves at least 30 minutes a day to get active.

Exercise helps to improve overall cardiovascular health. Two to three mini-workouts throughout the day might make it more manageable with all your daily responsibilities.

Anything is better than nothing. Physical activity will help with weight management, controlling your blood pressure, diabetes and healthy cholesterol levels. Make physical activity a priority as a part of your heart-healthy makeover.

Stress Management: Stress eating, smoking and using alcohol are harmful ways to deal with stress, and they have negative effects on your heart health. Don’t hesitate to seek out available community resources and support as you cope with stress and kick your unhealthy habits.

Knowledge and awareness: You could save your own life or someone else’s. Everyone’s health needs are different, so talking with your doctor regarding nutrition, medication and exercise is a must. We should be sharing information about heart health with others and acting as heart-healthy role models for children.

It is always smart to stay current with CPR recommendations and know how to spot the warning signs of heart attack and stroke.

Some of these tips may be easier said than done, but taking small steps to improve your heart health will be very beneficial. I think you’ll like your new heart-healthy look.

Megan Addison is the health and human sciences educator for Purdue Extension in Hancock County. She is a lifelong county resident.