By Unni Greene

Let’s make this Valentine’s Day the start of giving your heart some love to stay healthy and fit. This is the time of year when we focus on the heart and romance, but, ironically, Valentine’s Day often is associated with candy and sugar, which are inflammatory and not heart-healthy. Many lifestyle habits can lead to a healthy heart, including eating nutritious foods, enjoying regular exercise and taking supplements that support cardiovascular health.

Heart attacks are a leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. There are many causes, such as smoking, inactivity and a diet high in calories, sodium and saturated fats. What can you do to prevent heart disease and stay healthy?

Exercise. Experts agree, daily exercise is the single most important factor in protecting heart health. It even beats out medication in preventing heart disease and has no negative side effects.

Eat more fruits and vegetables. Aim for five to seven servings of vegetables and a serving of fruit in the morning to get the phytonutrients known to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Select whole grains. Whole grains are a good source of fiber and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health.

Limit unhealthy fats and cholesterol. The best way to reduce artery-clogging saturated and trans fats in your diet is to limit the amount of solid fats — butter, margarine and shortening — you add to food when cooking and serving. Eating more fish and less meat also lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Keep it coming. People who maintain an active lifestyle have a 45 percent lower risk of developing heart disease than do sedentary people. Overweight people who have trouble losing pounds can still achieve considerable heart benefits by exercising, so keep it up.

Keep exercise safe and fun. For people with heart disease, strenuous exercise can set a heart attack in motion, especially in men—particularly in those who exercise sporadically. Vigorous exertion can increase the risk of heart attack anywhere from six to 100 times. However, the benefits far outweigh the risks. It is a known fact that you are more likely to participate in activities that you enjoy, so make your exercise sessions lots of fun and safe. 

Unni Greene is a certified nutritionist and master trainer at SoMi Fitness.
For more information contact Unni at 


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