Three Ways to Improve Heart Health

February is American Heart Month. But highlighting the importance of heart health isn’t something we can afford to do for 28 days once a year. It’s an ongoing challenge, and its urgency can’t be stressed enough. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for men and women in the United states, causing one in four deaths in this country every year.

If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. But there’s good news: preventing heart problems, keeping your heart healthy, avoiding heart disease and leading a better lifestyle are largely matters of choice for most of us. And at Herbalife Nutrition, we are doing our part to help our customers – and the public at-large – make those smart choices.

Fortunately, the decisions in front of us are pretty logical and straightforward. Indeed, a healthy heart begins with three simple steps:

Getting Active

Just 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise can dramatically improve your prospects for cardiovascular wellness.

Achieving and Maintaining a Healthy Weight

If you’re overweight or obese, getting into the habit of shaving off a few pounds can significantly improve your cardiovascular system.

Eating Healthy

More nutrition, more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-sodium foods, and low-fat dairy, add up to a heart healthy diet.

Obviously, this isn’t rocket science. Yet that doesn’t make any of it easy. It requires shifts in folks’ routines and regimens, and it demands a level of discipline and focus that many people’s lives, jobs, and family situations may not allow. Still, though, we have to get back to the basics and encourage as many of our friends and neighbors as possible to get on board.

Getting Active is Key

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lay out a wide range of benefits of regular exercise. It can help you:

Now, if you’re unsure about boosting your level of exercise out of a concern that you may get injured or hurt, fear not – “moderate-intensity aerobic activity” can amount to something as fundamental as brisk walking, which is considered safe for most people, although it is always best to discuss with your physician before beginning any sort of exercise plan. And you shouldn’t ramp up your regimen too quickly anyway; if you’re out of practice, take things one step at a time; build yourself up to harder tasks gradually; so that eventually being active will become part of your daily routine.

Only about 53.4 percent of Americans do so, according to the latest data available from Gallup. Which means almost half of us exercise little if at all. To help our hearts, that has to change. Because, as the CDC reminds us, “the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks of getting hurt.”

A Healthy Weight Means a Healthier Heart

The CDC reports that there are important health benefits associated with modest weight loss (5 to 10 percent of your total body weight), including lower blood pressure, decreased blood cholesterol, and reduced blood sugars. With significant weight loss, people report improvements in physical health, energy levels, physical mobility, general mood, and self-confidence.

These aims, by the way, exist on a continuum – even if you set a larger goal for shedding pounds, you can start small, start exercising a little more each week, start eating better, and eventually, the big-picture objectives won’t seem so far out of reach.

Then the challenge becomes keeping the weight off, which is far easier said than done. Again, however, meeting this challenge requires us to stick with the basics: healthier lifestyles grow out of balance in the foods and beverages you consume, the way you perform daily tasks, and the amount of activity in your regular routine. You can count calories, keep a food diary, track your exercise on a spreadsheet or a mobile app, or try all of the above. The point is, if you act on that resolution to slim down, cut calories, and stay that way, you’ll be far more likely to meet your standards.

A healthy, balanced, nutritious diet is a matter of making different decisions about what we buy at the grocery store and put on our tables. More fruits and vegetables are a must, as they can reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Avoiding soft drinks that are obscenely high in sugar and packaged foods that are chock-full of salt, saturated fats, and chemical preservatives are key steps. Incorporating a nice complement of fish, lean meats, soy protein, and fiber is critical too.

You Are What You Eat

The last piece of the heart health puzzle: eating right. A healthy, nutritious diet is about what we choose to buy at the grocery store, cook at home, or order at a restaurant. It’s made up of the right balance between macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals. It consists of fruits and vegetables; lean meats, nuts, fish, soy protein, plants, and fiber; not to mention avoiding soft drinks and packaged goods that are overloaded with salt and sodium.

In case you’re wondering what that looks like, Susan Bowerman, director, worldwide nutrition training at Herbalife Nutrition, laid out a few examples of the types of meals you can easily make at home, such as:

All of these steps, suggestions, tips, and pointers are intended to meet the ultimate purpose of Herbalife Nutrition: whether or not you use our products, shakes, supplements, and more, we want everyone to lead heart-healthy lives. We will continue to our part, through our fitness camps, our mentorship programs, our outreach and education efforts, and anything else we do to make this happen. We only ask that all of you, our customers, to lead the charge in promoting healthier hearts – this month and every day.

John Agwunobi, M.D., MBA, MPH – Co-President and Chief Health & Nutrition Officer

John AgwunobiM.D., MBA, MPH – Co-President and Chief Health & Nutrition Officer

Dr. Agwunobi holds an MPH from Johns Hopkins and an MBA from Georgetown University. He completed his pediatric residency at Howard University and is currently a licensed physician in Florida and Maryland. In previous roles, he served as senior vice president and president of health and wellness for Walmart, as well as Assistant Secretary of Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.