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Healthy Living for a Healthier Heart

Contributed by Kandace Bletzacker, RD, LD and Jessica Greene, RD

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans. February is American Heart Month. Good health practices help prevent and treat heart disease. Follow a heart healthy diet and get exercise. Now is the time to begin healthy living for a healthier heart!

Heart Healthy Basics

father and daughter having a healthy meal*Check with your healthcare team before starting any diet or exercise program

Reduce Total Fat Intake

  • For most people total fat intake should be less than 65 grams each day

  • Read the saturated fats

  • Saturated fats increase "bad" cholesterol (LDL) levels

General Rule

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature
(Examples: all animal meats, lard, butter, whole milk dairy products, palm kernel oil, coconut oil)

Use Less Salt (Sodium)

  • Do not use salt in cooking

  • Do not use salt for seasoning

  • Talk to your healthcare team about how much salt (sodium) is OK for you

    • Most people should limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day

  • Read the Nutrition Facts label on the food package to find the amount of sodium

    • Avoid snacks, convenience and canned foods with high amounts of sodium

    • Eat healthy snacks

Eat More Fiber

  • Most people should eat 25-35 grams of fiber each day

  • Read the Nutrition Facts label on the food package to find the amount of fiber

  • Dietary fiber comes from plant foods

    • Fresh Fruits

    • Leafy Vegetables

    • Whole Grains

      • Rice, bread and cereals

  • Dietary fiber gives you a "full" feeling

  • Dietary fiber helps with weight loss

Stay at a Healthy Weight

  • Talk to your healthcare team about what is a healthy weight for you

  • A healthy weight lowers

    • Blood pressure

    • Blood sugar

    • Blood cholesterol and triglycerides

  • A healthy weight increases

    • "good" cholesterol (HDL) levels

    • increases energy

Get Exercise

  • Aim for 30 minutes of exercise each day

  • Start exercising 1-2 days each week and increase until you reach your goal

  • Become more "active" in your everyday activities

    • Walk to the mailbox

    • Park further from the door

    • Take the stairs

Set a goal of exercising 2½ hours/week

Losing weight may be as basic as eating less and exercising more

Read More

Healthy Eating (My HealtheVet)

Physical Activity (My HealtheVet)

Track Health (My HealtheVet) allows a registered user to record and track your health information in one convenient location. You can keep track of your diet and exercise in the Journals section. My HealtheVet provides dozens of ways to help you manage your health. Start tracking your healthy living activities!

Quit Tobacco (VA)

MOVE! (VA Weight Management Program)

Staying Healthy (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) Listen to, watch, and read about many healthy living topics.

Eat Right (American Dietetic Association) Listen to, watch, and read about food and nutrition.

Updated/Reviewed: January 31, 2010