Q: In this, the American Heart Month, what can I do to decrease my risk of heart disease? 

A: There are risk factors we can assess.

February is American Heart Month.  Here at TurningPoint, breast cancer s our focus.  We are passionate about keeping you in the loop with the latest research on breast cancer and ways to decrease recurrence, and during the month of February I like to spend some time on another health issue I’m passionate about—cardiovascular health. And maintaining good cardiovascular health will also help with maintaining a healthy weight, which is a factor in reducing recurrence of breast cancer. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. One in three deaths is a result of heart disease or stroke. Heart disease is known as the silent killer because most of us don’t know what puts us at risk. Knowing the risk factors is the first step that puts you in charge of your health and gives you the advantage of making changes. There are 10 things that put you at greater risk: Age, Sex, Family History, Race, Smoking, Cholesterol, Blood Pressure, Inactivity, Weight, and Diabetes. We are unable to change our age, sex, race and family history, but we have total control of changing the others.  What you do or don’t eat, whether you smoke, and if you’re physically active, are all choices made by you and can directly affect your health. This year instead of focusing on what NOT to do, focus on the positive changes you can make to decrease your risk for heart disease. Here are some suggestions:

Avoid saturated fats. Sources of saturated fat include: Fatty meat. Poultry skin, Whole milk, Lard, Coconut oil, Palm kernel oil, Palm oil, Butter, Cream, and Cottonseed oil

Read ingredient lists to make sure that the foods you choose do not contain partially hydrogenated oils.
These are trans fats.

Choose healthier sources of fat.
Choose: Olive oil, Canola oil, Walnut oil, Nuts, Seeds, and Avocados

Eat fatty fish at least two times each week.
The following are fatty fish: Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel, Bluefish, Mullet, Anchovies, Herring, and Sardines. If you do not like fish, you may consider taking a fish oil supplement that provides at least 1 gram (g)/day of combined eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Decrease the amount of sugar you consume.

Eat several sources of soluble fiber each day.
Good sources include: Citrus fruits, Apples, Pears, Prunes, Peaches, Plums, Barley, Oats, Legumes, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and Carrots

Increase your intake of foods that contain calcium and vitamin D.
Good sources of calcium include: Milk (skim) , Milk products(skim) , Fortified orange juice, Fortified breads, Fortified cereals, Beans, Dried figs, Calcium-fortified tofu, Canned salmon with bones, Almonds, Dark-green leafy vegetables, and Broccoli

Eat plenty of potassium-rich foods.
These include: Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, Bananas, Oranges, Halibut, Lima beans, Tuna, Swiss chard, Acorn squash, Tomatoes, Watermelon, Grapes, Raisins, Pistachios, Flounder, Parsnips, Pinto beans, Wheat germ, Brussel sprouts, Prunes, Spinach, Salmon, Cantaloupe, Lentils, Milk (skim) , and Milk products(skim)

Eat more fresh herbs and decrease your sodium consumption to 1,500 mg per day.

Eat several servings of nuts each week.
The best kinds of nuts are: Walnuts, Almonds, Brazil nuts, Pecans, and Pistachios

Use garlic, onions, and leeks often when preparing food.

Choose cereals that contain more than 5 g of fiber/serving.
Good choices include: Raisin bran, Shredded wheat, Grape-Nuts, Fiber One®

 You don’t have to tackle all of this at once. Pick a couple a week and commit to making a change!