You gotta’ have heart! Heart healthy tips for the whole family

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States today. You can lower your family’s chances of getting heart disease by eating healthy foods and getting physical activity each day.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States today. You can lower your family’s chances of getting heart disease multiple ways. One way is by eating healthy foods, another is by getting the required amounts of physical activity each day.

Additional tips to decreasing your risk of heart disease include:

  • Eat less fat. Some fats are more likely to cause heart disease than others. These fats are usually found in foods from animals, such as meat, milk, cheese and butter. So trim visible fat from meat, occasionally substitute other protein foods for meat, use low-fat or non-fat milk and cheeses and substitute lower-fat margarine or spreads for butter.
  • Eat less sodium. Eating less sodium (salt) can help lower some people’s blood pressure which can help reduce the risk of heart disease. We do need some salt each day, but most of us use too much. Avoid adding salt at the table and substitute fruits, vegetables or whole grains for high-sodium snacks and convenience foods.
  • Consume fewer calories. When we eat more food than we need, we gain weight. Being overweight can cause heart disease. So maintain or improve your weight - a good way is by eating plenty of grain products, fruits and vegetables.
  • Don’t be a couch potato! Limit television, movies, videos and computer time. At first try for an hour less a day, then build from there. Substitute this time with physical activity.
  • Plan outings. Schedule time with friends and family that involve activities, like walking, swimming, bicycling, etc.
  • Housework. Chores around the home can be an extra chance to get physical activity. Mowing lawns, raking leaves, mopping floors and taking out the garbage are good exercise, plus they yield a cleaner house.
  • Dogs. Dogs can be exercise machines with fur! A brisk walk with a dog is good for both of your hearts, make it part of your daily routine. Don’t have a dog? Borrow one from a neighbor or volunteer at your local animal shelter.
  • Take advantage of local activities like hiking, going to the park, walks for charity, fun-runs, etc.
  • Plant a garden and enjoy the fresh vegetables and the fresh air.
  • Help kids develop good habits, especially physical activity habits, at an early age and practice heart‑healthy habits yourself. One way is by being active with your children and grandchildren. Take them places or teach them games (jump rope, hopscotch, red rover) that you enjoyed as a child.

To learn more about heart disease prevention, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at or the American Heart Association at

For more information on the preventing or managing chronic diseases, or instilling good habits in your children contact a Michigan State University Extension educator in your area.

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