Super food selection for health diet in porcelain bowls over distressed wooden background.

February is about love and the heart. It is a month we reach out to our loved ones and let them know how important they are to us. It is a month of sweets and indulgences, as we shower our loved ones with chocolates, candies and decadent dining. February is also the month the American Heart Association designates for Heart Disease Awareness – an important topic, as heart disease claims over 900,000 lives each year — that’s 36% of all deaths and the leading cause of death of American women.

According to the AHA, cardiovascular disease kills a woman every minute – Mothers. Grandmothers, Daughters. Sisters. Friends.  One in three women suffers from this killer, and signs of heart disease are starting to show up in kids. That is a pretty scary thing.  Heart issues, like high cholesterol or tendencies toward inflammation can be passed on from one generation to the next.  While up until recently, we were told you can’t change your genetics, you CAN influence whether those genes will be expressed or turned off.  Actually research now shows that our genetic programming really only influences 5-10% of our health.  Your environment, diet, relationships, stress levels and how you handle your emotions have far more influence over chronic illness and disease than do your genes. You have the power to create health.  You have the power to turn on and off your genes. And YOU CAN start right now to change your habits, which will help you build a defense against heart disease and other illness, even reverse disease. How amazing is that?

With a proper diet, regular exercise, positive body love and awareness, you can reduce your chances for becoming another statistic.

Here are three things you can do right now to protect yourself and your family from heart disease.

Watch out

Awareness is key to understanding your body and what you put into it. Avoid excess salt, sugars, chemicals and additives found in most processed foods, and be aware of trans fat and conventionally raised meats. Trans fat, typically found in margarine and other cooking oils, is the big one to look out for when you are shopping or eating out.  Many products that boast being “trans fat free” or having zero grams may not exactly be telling the truth. To find out, look in the ingredient list. If you see “Partially Hydrogenated Oil” or “Hydrogenated Oils” in any form, put it back.

Research is finally coming out with the truth; comparing grass fed or pastured raised meats with conventionally raised ones – and showing the benefits of meat eating in the former category. Conventionally raised animals are found forced into less than ideal conditions; are high in antibiotics, hormones, stress hormones, and fed genetically modified feed. This does not produce a healthy meat. Regardless of if you eat meat or not, eat less of it. Treat meat as a condiment or side dish, making vegetables your star.

Veg Out

The majority of Americans eat only 1-2 servings of vegetables per day, but 5-7 servings is optimal. Eating a diet rich in colorful vegetables & fruits, and healthy fats like avocado, olive oil and coconut oil is proven to reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and other complications or diseases. There is also substantial research showing its role in reversing these diseases! They are prevention AND treatment. Besides, they are just good!

Get Out

Exercise is critical in maintaining a strong and healthy body. Not only does it keep you in shape, but it is also one of your best defenses against stress.  Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise (e.g., brisk walking) nearly every day. If you can’t devote 30 minutes all at once, break it up into 10-minute intervals.

There is no better time or day like today, right now, to show your heart some love. No matter what you do or eat, your heart continues to beat for you and keeps you alive. It’s working while you work, sleep, eat and exercise. Start taking proper care of your heart now so it can continue to do its job for a long time.

Catch my latest video on heart health here!