Write a love letter, slip on that new red dress and… eat your fruits and vegetables? If you want to have a heart-healthy Valentine’s Day, then yes, the first step is eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are loaded with fiber, an important nutrient for a healthy heart.

However, your heart may be the least loved in your life and Valentine’s Day is a good time to think about how you can show yourself, and your heart, the same amount of love you show your family, friends and significant other every single day. Here are five heart-healthy ways to do just that.

1. Eat Fruits and Vegetables

It seems simple, but too many people forget to stock their fridge with these critical foods. While it’s an important part of any healthy diet, it’s especially vital for your ticker.

“They are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber and low in fat and calories. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight and your blood pressure,” according to the American Heart Association. While nearly any and every vegetable will do, focus on a few important ones:

  • asparagus kalePineapple: This fruit is loaded with vitamin C, which the heart needs for fighting free radicals.
  • Kale: The high nitrate content of kale helps to lower blood pressure and in turn improve heart function in women. For both genders, it’s also a source of heart-healthy antioxidants.
  • Asparagus: The B6 in this vegetable helps to lower homocysteine, which is an amino acid closely linked to heart disease.

The American Heart Association also recommends eating celery, bananas, strawberries, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, apples, carrots and cauliflower.

2. Get Moving

It’s another simple heart-healthy task, yet for busy people it can be nearly impossible. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. That’s just 30 minutes a day, five days a week. The only way to start clocking your time is to get moving.

On Valentine’s Day, take a walk with your significant other, go on a morning run with close friends or celebrate yourself with a short hike and stunning views from the top.

3. Cut Back on Hydrogenated Oils

Full of trans fats, hydrogenated oil should be avoided like the plague, specifically hydrogenated vegetable oil. This is found in many processed food items, even whole grain crackers, peanut butter and veggie burgers. However, it adds nothing to your meal but a large serving of trans fats.

If it’s so bad, why is it in your food? “Trans fat is made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil through a process called hydrogenation, which makes the oil less likely to spoil. Using trans fats in the manufacturing of foods helps foods stay fresh longer, have a longer shelf life and have a less greasy feel,” according to MayoClinic.org.

This kind of fat raises your LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol. The heart-healthy method is to avoid it; get into the habit of reading every food label (or just stop buying processed food products altogether), and put down anything that lists hydrogenated oil. The higher it is on the ingredients list, the more oil the product contains.

Common heart-clogging foods that contain hydrogenated oils include:

  • heart clogging foodsMargarine
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Non dairy whipped dessert toppings and cake frosting
  • White bread
  • Non-dairy coffee creamers
  • Tortillas
  • Donuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Fast food
  • Ice cream

4. Get Frisky

Improve your heart health with some extra loving. A study from the New England Research Institutes found that “a low frequency of sexual activity (once a month or less versus more than 2 times weekly) was associated with increased risk of CVD (cardio vascular disease).” If you “don’t have time,” then pencil it into your calendar just like any other gym session or healthy activity.

5. Do Something You Love

A large Danish study found that those who are mentally vulnerable, or more susceptible to stress, are at a much higher risk of fatal and non-fatal heart disease.

Why? The American Heart Association explains: “A stressful situation sets off a chain of events. Your body releases adrenaline, a hormone that causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise.”

Yet, when you do something that you love, outside of work and your everyday duties as a significant other, parent or roommate, your body releases this toxic stress, making your heart healthier and happier. Whether you love to read, dance, or knit, make time for it on Valentine’s Day and after.

With a few simple tweaks in your diet and everyday lifestyle your heart will reap maximum benefits. Eat a few extra vegetables, get a little frisky and most of all, show your heart plenty of love this Valentine’s Day.

How do you ensure your heart is well taken care of?

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