March 3, 2015

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so let’s discuss healthy practices for creating—and maintaining—a healthy heart.



Your heart is a vital organ which pumps blood throughout your body, fueling you with oxygen and nutrients. The heart enables you to do everything—mentally and physically—so it’s essential that you focus on keeping it healthy and happy.

Use these five tips to improve your heart health now and into the future!

1. Watch What You Eat.

A healthy diet and a healthy heart go hand in hand. Protect your heart with a diet full of fruits and veggies, and focus on fish—particularly salmon and mackerel—and beans to get your protein.

Red meats, while they can be eaten in moderation, are high in saturated fats, which can negatively affect your heart health. In addition to saturated fats, watch out for trans fats! If you see the words “partially hydrogenated” on the ingredients label, that product contains trans fats and should be avoided.

Do’s and don’ts for heart health at a glance:

Do eat: Fresh fruits and vegetables, fish such as salmon and mackerel, oatmeal, walnuts, olive oil, beans and other legumes

Don’t eat: deep-fried foods, bakery treats, pre-packaged and processed snacks, margarine, an abundance of red meats

2. ExerciseRun

As you can already tell, the most basic components of a healthy lifestyle—eating the right foods and exercising—are also the two most fundamental aspects to creating and maintaining a healthy heart.

It’s funny how that works, isn’t it?

Exercising just 20 to 30 minutes a day can help you keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check, two key components for a happy heart. Start by taking a walk every day, or get involved in a sport or an active hobby you enjoy.

Exercising shouldn’t feel like a task; it should be enjoyable!

3. Monitor Your Alcohol Intake

In excess, alcohol is terrible for your heart. When consumed in moderation, alcohol will have a negligible effect on heart health, but drink every day or binge drink every weekend, and you’re asking for heart troubles.

There’s nothing wrong with the occasional drink with friends or the periodic celebratory glass of wine or beer–just make sure you keep your consumption in check!

4. Stop Smoking

In today’s age, smoking is well researched, and the negative effects of doing so are widely known. Smoking is harmful for a variety of reasons, but frequent smokers find themselves at a higher risk for heart disease, too.

If changing your diet is difficult or if you can’t find time to exercise, you can take the first step toward a healthier heart by focusing on cutting back on—and then eliminating—cigarettes in your life.

5.  Be Happy. Love (and be loved).

For Valentine’s Day, I just had to jump into the symbolic meaning of the heart. You’ll see pictures of bright red hearts plastered everywhere this week, and for this holiday, the heart does not represent healthy living; it represents love and affection!

Make sure you let your family members, spouse or significant other, and friends know you love them and you truly care about them. Be a good person, be cordial and upbeat, and reap the benefits of reduced stress and increased happiness in your life.

While the heart represents love from a symbolic standpoint for Valentine’s Day, the idea of loving someone and being loved in return has a very real impact on your heart’s health! By reducing stress and anxiety and promoting happiness and relaxation, you’ll calm your body and allow your heart to do its job more easily and efficiently.

If you’re looking for a place to start with these five tips, there are plenty of local nonprofits willing to lend you a hand and offer you the support you need.

The Council of Community Clinics and the San Diego County Medical Society Foundation are committed to providing San Diegans access to quality, reliable healthcare and improving the overall health of the community. If you need a check-up or if you’d like more information on improving your heart health, these two places could be a great place to start.

For the homeless and the underserved, the UCSD Student-Run Free Clinic provides free medical and preventative care as well as the knowledge, expertise, and resources to make sure you can manage your health long after you leave the clinic’s doors. With their committed and friendly staff, they ensure your health now and into the future.

How are you improving your heart health this year?

I’d love to hear from you and to learn what works for you. Leave a comment, and we’ll discuss this topic.

Nancy-BigSmile– Nancy Sasaki, Executive Director
Allaince Healthcare Foundation




About Alliance Healthcare Foundation

Alliance Healthcare Foundation is a San Diego-based nonprofit which works with nonprofit, government and community agencies to advance health and wellness throughout the San Diego and Imperial Counties. AHF works to serve the most vulnerable – the poor, working poor, children and homeless by providing grants, advocacy and education to support its region.

To learn more about AHF visit:   AHF on FacebookAHF on LinkedinAHF on Google+AHF on YoutubeAHF on Twitter

To learn more about our grantees visit here: AHF’s Grantee Page 


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