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Monitor diet, exercise for healthy heart

Make a fist. That's the size of your heart.

Your heart is a pump that moves nutrients throughout your body, so you have energy to work and play. Unfortunately, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women. February, American Hearth Month, is a good time to think about keeping your heart healthy and strong.

Some things, such as being older or having a family history of heart disease, might put us more at risk for heart disease. These are beyond our control. Other things, such as our diet and exercise routine, can be changed.

Answer these questions. If you answer "yes," consider some changes that could improve your heart health over time. Some heart-healthy tips follow each question.

Are you overweight according to a health-care provider?

Watch portion sizes.

Steer clear of fad diets.

Add some physical activity to your routine.

Do you get 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as walking, on most days of the week?

Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity, such as walking, every day. Even 10-minute segments count toward the goal.

Use the stairs.

Is your blood cholesterol level high (above 200 mg/dl)?

Eat less saturated fat. Read nutrition fact labels to learn about your choices.

Eat at least 3-1/2 cups of colorful fruits and vegetables daily.

Make half your grain servings whole-grain foods, such as oatmeal and whole-wheat bread, every day.

Do you have high blood-pressure?

If you don't know, check with your health-care provider.

Consider the DASH diet -- Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension -- a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and low-fat dairy products and low in total and saturated fat. Contact the Extension Service office for a handout on the DASH diet.

Use less salt (sodium) on your food and fewer processed foods.

Do you have diabetes?

Work with a health-care professional to manage your blood sugar levels with proper diet, physical activity and/or medication.

Do you smoke?

Team up with a friend and work on quitting together.

Visit with a health-care provider to decide what's best for you.

For more information on this topic, contact Luella Morehouse, FNP Education Assistant, NDSU Extension Service Stutsman County, 116 1/2 First Street East, Jamestown, ND. Morehouse may be reached at 252-9030 or