We have hearts on our mind- and not just when Cupid strikes on the 14th.  The entire month is dedicated to your most vital organ because heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in America. One in four people will die of heart disease (woah) then let’s actively engage in ways to decrease this obscenely high percentage! Knowledge is power- so let’s read up, eat up, get up and protect our hearts from something even more scary than being alone on Valentine’s Day.

What is heart disease?

Heart disease consists of a variety of conditions, all of which are typically caused by what’s called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is just a fancy word to describe the build up of plaque in your arteries from high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking, making it difficult to have normal blood flow to your heart. This blockage can lead to a number of problems including a heart attack and heart failure- all of which are grouped together in the term “heart disease”.

You’re breaking my heart- how can I prevent that?

Your weight, cholesterol levels and blood pressure all affect your heart as a whole and can all be influenced by a healthy diet and lifestyle. The good news is even small changes in these areas will make a difference! For a healthy heart, the American Heart Association recommends to follow a few guidelines:

1.     Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a combination of both, every week.

2.     Eat meals and snacks that are rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, lean proteins and low fat dairy (if not vegan).

3.     Limit saturated and trans fat, sodium, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages and red meat (again, if you’re not vegan/vegetarian).

These recommendations were created specifically with the heart in mind. Exercise and fiber (from whole grains, fruits and vegetables) help to decrease cholesterol levels in your body. Fruits and vegetables can actually help to regulate blood pressure because of their potassium, magnesium and calcium content, and limiting saturated and trans fat intake also helps to decrease your cholesterol- did you know that cholesterol found in foods doesn’t affect the cholesterol in your body? It’s actually saturated and trans fat that lead to high cholesterol. Not to mention, a diet rich in whole foods and less processed foods will naturally lead to a more healthy weight.

Zest will guard and protect your heart

All of you Zestonians know that Zest keeps it real by providing products that are full of fruits, vegetables and heart healthy fats (shout out to nut butters, avocado, hemp hearts, cacao nibs, chia seeds and flaxseed).  From smoothies to bowls to wraps to toasts to salads- all of these item you pick up at Zest will have some and maybe even all of these heart beneficial foods! One easy way to make a small change in favor of your heart is to replace even just one meal or snack full of sodium and saturated fat with a smoothie, bowl or wrap from Zest. You can trust that your swap is full of fruits, vegetables and good fats, has less of the saturated and trans fats and very little if any, sodium.

Making change in honor of our health can be intimidating, but Zest’s entire reason for existence is to make healthy living and eating that much easier. With a statistic like “1 in 4 Americans will die of heart disease” something’s gotta give. Small changes add up over time, eventually making a big difference to avoid being a part of the statistic.  

For more information on heart disease and prevention from the American Heart Association, visit: www.heart.org

Emily Fitz, RD, LD