February is American Heart Month, and what better way to care for your heart than to show it some love with healthy living? Living healthy can include numerous things but primary to anyone’s health is their way of eating and activity level.

“Living healthier can mean different things to different people, but a person’s diet and activity level are the primary keys to healthy living,” says Marianne Grant, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center.

For example, the risk for clogged, brittle, hard arteries, heart attack, stroke, and other vascular diseases can be greatly decreased by cutting down on saturated fat in your diet, Grant says. Saturated fat comes mostly from animal sources such as full fat dairy products, ice cream, butter, meats and fried foods.

“Cutting the portion size of these foods is an easy way to still enjoy the foods without hurting your heart,” Grant says. “More healthy fats to consume, in moderation, are usually fats from plant sources.”

Grant adds that a healthy weight is also healthy for your heart. A simple change is to incorporate more non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and spinach on a daily basis to reduce overall calorie intake without being hungry. Eating vegetables with every meal increases fiber, antioxidant and vitamin intake, as well as promotes weight loss. The vegetables – as long as extra fat, sodium and high-calorie dressings are not added – fill up the stomach without adding many calories.

Along with healthy eating, physical activity is crucial to living healthier. Just 30 minutes five days a week helps prevent disease and manage weight, Grant says.

“Physical activity and a healthier diet can have a synergistic effect in that each seems to enhance the other,” Grant says. “By eating well and keeping your energy levels up, physical activity is easier to incorporate during the day, just as exercising helps increase your energy level and control hunger.”

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