February is American Heart Month.  Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S.  What can you do to reduce your risk of heart disease?

Here are some tips from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Stop Smoking: Smoking damages the lining of the arteries, making it easier for plaque to build up. Smokers are at high risk for blood clots and stroke and are 6 times more likely to have a heart attack.

Manage blood pressure: HIgh blood pressure occurs when blood pushes too hard against artery walls as it passes through the arteries. This damages the artery lining. This raises your risk of heart attack and stroke

Lower your cholesterol:  Abnormal cholesterol levels make plaque buildup more likely. Your risk goes up if you don’t have enough HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol that helps clear the bad cholesterol away). You’re at risk if your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol or triglycerides is high.

Limit sugar intake: Diabetes occurs when you have high levels of sugar (glucose) in your blood. This damages your arteries if it’s not in control. You are also more likely to have a silent heart attack—no symptoms. Diabetes increases heart disease risk in women even more than it does in men.

Lose weight:  Excess weight makes other risk factors, such as diabetes. Excess weight around the stomach and waist increase your heart disease risk the most.

Get moving:  Lack of physical activity makes you more likely to develop diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels and excess weight.

Get your stress under control:  Negative emotions such as stress and pent up anger have been linked to heart disease. It could raise your heart disease risk.


According to WebMD, here are some foods that can save your heart.

Fresh Herbs: Fresh herbs make many other foods heart-healthy when they replace salt, sugar, and trans fats. Rosemary, sage, oregano, and thyme contain antioxidants.

Black Beans:  Mild, tender black beans are packed with heart-healthy nutrients including folate, antioxidants, magnesium, and fiber -- which helps control both cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Red Wine and Resveratrol:  If you drink alcohol, a little red wine may be a heart-healthy choice. Resveratrol and catechins, two antioxidants in red wine, may protect artery walls. Alcohol can also boost HDL, the good cholesterol.

Salmon: A top food for heart health, it's rich in the omega-3s EPA and DHA. Omega-3s may lower risk of rhythm disorders and reduce blood pressure. Salmon also lowers blood triglycerides and reduces inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of salmon or other oily fish a week.

Tuna for Omega-3s:  Tuna is a good source of heart-healthy omega-3s; it generally costs less than salmon. Albacore (white tuna) contains more omega-3s than other tuna varieties.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil:  This oil, made from the first press of olives, is especially rich in heart-healthy antioxidants called polyphenols, as well as healthy monounsaturated fats. When olive oil replaces saturated fat (like butter), it can help lower cholesterol levels. Polyphenols may protect blood vessels.

Walnuts:  A small handful of walnuts (1.5 ounces) a day may lower your cholesterol and reduce inflammation in the arteries of the heart. Walnuts are packed with omega-3s, monounsaturated fats, and fiber.

Almonds:  Slivered almonds go well with vegetables, fish, chicken, even desserts, and just a handful adds a good measure of heart health to your meals. They're chock full of plant sterols, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. Almonds may help lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes.

Edamame:  These green soybeans are packed with soy protein, which can lower blood triglyceride levels. A half cup of edamame also has 9 grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber -- equal to four slices of whole-wheat bread.

Tofu: Make soy protein the main attraction more often at dinnertime by cooking with tofu instead of red meat. You gain all the heart-healthy minerals, fiber, and polyunsaturated fats of soy -- and you avoid a load of artery-clogging saturated fat.

Sweet Potatoes:  Sweet potatoes are a hearty, healthy substitute for white potatoes for people concerned about diabetes. With a low glycemic index, these spuds won't cause a quick spike in blood sugar. Ample fiber, vitamin A, and lycopene add to their heart-healthy profile.

Oranges:  This sweet, juicy fruit contains the cholesterol-fighting fiber pectin -- as well as potassium, which helps control blood pressure. A small study shows that OJ may improve blood vessel function and modestly lower blood pressure through the antioxidant hesperidin.

Swiss Chard:  The dark green, leafy vegetable is rich in potassium and magnesium, minerals that help control blood pressure. Fiber, vitamin A, and the antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, add to the heart-healthy profile.

Carrots:  The latest research on carrots shows these sweet, crunchy veggies may help control blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing diabetes. They're also a top cholesterol-fighting food, thanks to ample amounts of soluble fiber -- the kind found in oats.

Barley:  Try this nutty, whole grain in place of rice with dinner or simmer barley into soups and stews. The fiber in barley can help lower cholesterol levels and may lower blood glucose levels, too.

Oatmeal:  Oats in all forms can help your heart by lowering LDL, the bad cholesterol. A warm bowl of oatmeal fills you up for hours, fights snack attacks, and helps keep blood sugar levels stable over time -- making it useful for people with diabetes, too.

Flaxseed:  This shiny, honey-colored seed has three elements that are good for your heart: fiber, phytochemicals called lignans, and ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. The body converts ALA to the more powerful omega-3s, EPA and DHA.

Low-Fat Yogurt:  While low-fat dairy is most often touted for bone health, these foods can help control high blood pressure, too. Milk is high in calcium and potassium and yogurt has twice as much of these important minerals. To really boost the calcium and minimize the fat, choose low-fat or non-fat varieties.

Foods Fortified With Sterols:  Want the heart-healthy power of vegetables in your milk or on toast? Margarine, soy milk, or orange juice can deliver -- when they're fortified with cholesterol-fighting sterols and stanols. These plant extracts block cholesterol absorption in the gut and can lower LDL levels by 10% without affecting good cholesterol.

Coffee:  Coffee and tea may help protect your heart by warding off type 2 diabetes. Studies show that people who drink 3-4 cups a day may cut their risk by 25% -- and even decaffeinated coffee works. Caution is due, however, for those who already have diabetes or hypertension; caffeine can complicate these conditions.

Cayenne Chili Pepper:  Shaking hot chili powder on food may help prevent a spike in insulin levels after meals. A small study inAustralia showed that simply adding chili to a hamburger meal produced lower insulin levels in overweight volunteers.

Kosher Salt:  This may be worth a try for people with high blood pressure. Kosher salt may give you more salty flavor with less actual salt -- and less sodium -- than if you sprinkled table salt on your food. The larger crystals impart more flavor than finely ground salt. You’ll still need to measure carefully; a teaspoon of Kosher salt has 1,120-2,000 mg of sodium, while the daily limit for most people is 1,500 mg. And in cooking, the taste advantage is lost.

Cherries:  Cherries are packed with anthocyanins, an antioxidant believed to help protect blood vessels. Cherries in any form provide these heart-healthy nutrients: the larger heart-shaped sweet cherries, the sour cherries used for baking, as well as dried cherries and cherry juice.


The Go Red for Woman Luncheon is Friday, February 22 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.  Click here to get more details and to purchase tickets.