February isn’t just about Valentine’s Day hearts, it’s also about the one beating in your chest.

February isn’t just about Valentine’s Day hearts, it’s also about the one beating in your chest.

This is American Heart Month, a national effort to encourage you to learn more about the risk of heart disease and what you can do to keep your heart healthy. Why? Because coronary disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the odds are one in four of being affected by coronary disease. But take heart, by choosing to eat heart-healthy and live heart-healthy, chances of beating the odds are good.

“By developing good eating habits, being physically active, taking advantage of preventive screenings and avoiding tobacco, individuals can significantly reduce the onset and burden of heart disease,” said Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist.

The American Heart Associations recommends a heart-healthy diet. But that doesn’t mean deprivation. What it does mean, is eating vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products and fat-free or low-fat meat and dairy products most often. Here’s why:

* Vegetables and fruits are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. And guess what else? They’re also low in calories. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can help control weight and blood pressure.

* Unrefined whole-grain foods also contain fiber and fiber can help lower your blood cholesterol. But wait, there’s more. Those whole-grain goodies also help you feel full, which in turn helps most manage their weight.

* Eating oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, trout and herring, twice a week may help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease.

* Go for lean meats and skinless poultry and prepare them without added saturated and trans fats.

* Choose fat-free, 1 percent or low-fat dairy products.

Of course, all foods didn’t get the heart-healthy green light. Some foods, probably some of your favorites, should be limited. But again take heart. The American Heart Association’s following recommendation is to limit these food choices, not eliminate them:

* Don’t overdo nutrition-poor, high-calorie food and drinks.

* Put the food brakes on saturated fat and trans fat.

* Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.

* Limit foods high in dietary cholesterol. The goal is to eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily.    

* Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars.

* Select and/or prepare foods with little or no salt. Less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day is optimal.

Along with a heart-healthy diet, get up, get out and move. Exercise is an important part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. Does that mean you have to live at the gym or turn into a marathon runner?

Absolutely not. A moderate exercise program, like walking, is all that’s necessary.

And finally, give up the smokes, stay away from smoke  and limit how much alcohol you consume — one drink a day for women and two for men.

Marsha Miller 221-6529