Heart-healthy tips for Valentine’s Day

The big V-day is almost here! You may be tempted to spend the holiday with decadent chocolate treats, celebratory champagne and romantic, high-calorie dinners. However, indulging too much on this day of love isn’t always great for your heart health. Despite recent progress in the medical field, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women. Making heart-healthy choices and taking control of your cardiovascular risk factors can help slow or prevent the progression of heart disease. Here are some of my tips for celebrating Valentine’s Day while still protecting your heart.

Valentine’s Day heart-healthy ideas

Modify your meals

Eating at home is an excellent way to save calories and money, and avoid crowds. Find a simple to make, reduced-calorie meal that you can cook with or for you and your partner at home. Try some healthy desserts, like strawberry shortcake sprinkled with your favourite low-calorie sweetener, and enjoy!

If you really want to eat out, feel free to make special requests at the restaurant. For instance, you could ask the waiter if they can substitute fries for veggies. Find out if they can prepare your meal with less butter, oil or salt; anything that could help cut down on calories. Also remember in terms of calories, grilled or baked is usually better than fried.

Red equals heart-healthy

Red bell peppers, cherries, strawberries, red beans, red onions and tomatoes, are all packed with vitamins, cancer-fighting antioxidants or cholesterol-busting fibre and protein. Also, a daily glass of red wine is believed to help keep the cardiovascular system in shape. So forget that cocktail, which can be loaded with sugar, and have a glass of red wine instead (ask if they serve a lighter version).

Don’t always give the gift of chocolate

Consider buying your loved one a fruit basket instead of a box of chocolates. If you are opting for sweets, try sugar-free candies and chocolates found at your local grocery store. A healthy cookbook, a bouquet of flowers, personal training sessions or a day spa gift certificate are also great gift substitutes.

Allow yourself a little indulgence

Valentine’s Day is a time for love, laughter, fun and food. Having a small slice of cake or a chocolate or two won’t do much harm. In fact, research shows that small amounts of chocolate are full of healthy compounds that may actually help prevent heart disease, boost immune systems and give us a general sense of well-being. The key when indulging is moderation. 

Some tips to stay heart-healthy throughout the year

Stay active: One of the best ways to keep your heart pumping is to keep moving. Ideally, you should get your heart rate up with at least 30 minutes of exercise, at least five days a week. However, if you’re a beginner, you can start small and gradually increase your level of activity. 

Consume less sugar, red meat, sugar and unhealthy fats. There are plenty of other foods you can enjoy for a heart-healthy diet. Be sure to add fruits and vegetables to your diet to increase your fibre consumption.

Use less salt. Over time you can re-train your taste buds to become accustomed to a lower-sodium diet, and you will start to notice subtle flavours in your foods again.

Keep your weight under control. Being overweight increases the risk of heart failure, heart attacks, and diabetes. A healthy diet with portion control and consistent exercise is the best way to maintain a healthy weight.

Check your cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and blood pressure: It’s recommended that you get these factors checked every 5 years if you are healthy. However, your doctor may suggest doing this more often if you already have certain risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure diabetes, cholesterol, obesity, or a family history of heart disease.

If you need more heart-healthy tips, feel free to contact me. I also create heart-healthy meal plans to keep your heart in tip-top shape.

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