A Heart bowl on a wooden table filled with berries

February - All About Heart Health!

Quick Summary

  • As February ushers in thoughts of love, let's prioritize self-love and heart health. Discover practical tips for a heart-healthy lifestyle and making this February a celebration of love and well-being!

February is usually the time of year when we are reminded of who we love, what we love, and how to express that love. With Valentine's Day approaching you may be starting to think of ways to spread love to those around you, but don’t forget about giving yourself some of that affection as well. Self-care has numerous mental and physical health benefits, such as being associated with a lower risk of heart disease or stroke. Which is why February is the perfect month to bring awareness to heart health through American Heart Month! Keep reading to gain some practical nutrition and lifestyle tips for a happy and healthy heart. At the end of the article, there is an opportunity to win a special prize!


What is heart disease?

Heart disease or cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term for several types of heart conditions. This includes diseased blood vessels, heart structural problems, and blood clots. Some examples include:

  • Coronary Artery disease
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Heart failure 
  • Heart valve disease

High blood pressure, cholesterol, and smoking are the main risk factors for heart disease and can all be modifiable. Which is why lifestyle and nutrition are the main ways to prevent cardiovascular disease.


How do we live in a heart healthy way?

1. Nutrition Tips

Build an eating plan: The main components of a heart healthy eating plan is to limit saturated fat, sodium, added sugars, and alcohol. High amounts of these types of food components in our diet can lead to high blood pressure, high LDL (bad cholesterol), and inflammation. 

Eat mainly:

  • Mono and Polyunsaturated fats (liquid at room temperature): canola, corn, olive oil, nuts, salmon, avocados, and seeds
  • Vegetables and fruits: leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, apples, oranges, pears
  • Whole grains: oatmeal, whole grain bread, tortillas 
  • Lower fat dairy: milk, cheese, yogurt
  • Protein rich foods: tofu products, nuts, beans, lean meats, and eggs

Eat the rainbow! When grocery shopping or choosing foods, try to pick a variety of colors. Try to eat all the colors of the rainbow in a day! Doing so introduces different types of polyphenols which are plant pigments in food that can help or prevent heart disease. You can download this chart to track how many colors you can eat in a dayPolyphenols act as:

  • Antioxidants: trap free radicals which lowers inflammation
  • Antiplatelets: prevent the coagulation of platelets in a blood vessel
  • Anti-hypertensives: lowers blood pressure and hypertension

Foods like grapefruit, curly kale, green tea, turmeric, blueberries, grapes, and soy are high in these health promoting compounds.  

2. Lifestyle Tips 

It is well known that stress and anxiety are linked to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases (CVD). A hypothesized mechanism is that too much stress can cause inflammation, a key component to the development of heart conditions. Use these next few tools to keep stress and anxiety at bay.

Walking: Regular walking has been shown to lower blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and strengthen arteries. Taking 10-30 minute brisk strolls can have a huge impact on your heart and mental health. 

Meditation: Perceived stress releases hormones that raise our heart rate and blood pressure. Too much of this cardiovascular stress can be a risk factor for CVD. A proven way to reduce this phenomenon is through a regular meditation practice. An act of self love is setting the time to relax and take care of yourself.

Insight timer is a free app that includes meditation timers, guided meditations, and other resources for mindfulness. 


Heart Healthy Bingo and Prize

This month try the challenge of completing an active heart bingo! Every time you complete an activity mark it, and once you complete a whole line you’ve made a BINGO! Send in your card via email to wellbeing@ucdavis.edu by Thursday, February 29 to enter into a prize drawing and a chance to win a wellness package. Print, download, or share the bingo template.


Heart Healthy Recipes

Chicken Mole with tortilla strips

Try this delicious and simple chicken mole recipe. Traditionally, mole is a rich-dark sauce made out of chiles, spices, aromatics, and chocolate. This Hispanic dish is warming, comforting and heart healthy!


Raspberry Chocolate Scones 

Get into the spirit of Valentine's Day with these berry chocolate scones! This recipe was created by Mayo clinic dietitians with heart health in mind. It only takes a few ingredients and 10-12 minutes in the oven. This recipe can also be made vegan by using yogurt substitutes and vegan butter. 


One Pan Baked Teriyaki Salmon and Vegetables

This one pan meal makes for a delicious dinner in under 30 minutes. A sweet and savory sauce is paired with bell peppers, carrots, and broccoli which adds a nice crunch. As a bonus, salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to protect against heart disease. 


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