NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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Nourish Your Heart for Good Health

American Heart Month, nourish your heart, heart, heart health

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Community Wellness

Beulah fifth grade students recently began the program “On the Move to Better Health”. As adults, do you do all you can to improve your health?

February is American Heart Month. Have you thought about your heart lately?

On average, your heart beats about 100,000 times per day, pumping nutrients and oxygen throughout the body. Taking this hard-working group of muscles for granted can be easy.

Do you know your blood pressure? If you have high blood pressure, you are at greater risk for stroke and heart attacks because your heart has to work harder. It’s often called the “silent killer” because you may not have any symptoms. Normal blood pressure is considered to be 120/80 mmHg.

Excessive sodium in our diet can increase our blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Heart disease and stroke are the first and fourth leading causes of death in the U.S., making cardiovascular disease responsible for one of every three deaths in the country.

Do you know your blood cholesterol profile? The body uses cholesterol to form hormones, cell membranes and other body substances. A high blood cholesterol level is one of the risk factors for heart disease. Many health experts recommend that adults over age 20 have their blood cholesterol level checked at least once every five years.


Total cholesterol includes LDL and HDL cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is commonly referred to as the “bad” type of cholesterol. LDL cholesterol carries cholesterol through the blood stream and arteries. Excess cholesterol may deposit in arteries, partly or completely blocking the flow of blood and making the heart work harder. A high LDL cholesterol level is associated with greater risk for heart disease.


High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is commonly referred to as the “good” type of cholesterol.  HDL cholesterol carries LDL cholesterol away from the arteries. Regular physical activity can increase the HDL cholesterol level. Unlike LDL cholesterol, a low HDL cholesterol level is associated with greater risk for heart disease.

What can you eat to improve your heart health? Eating more fruits and vegetables daily is associated with improving health. Nutrition experts now recommend that adults, on average, consume 2½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit daily. 

Aim for at least three of your servings from the grain group to be whole grains. Whole-wheat bread and oatmeal are examples of whole-grain foods.

Fiber, especially soluble fiber found in barley, oatmeal, legumes such as cooked beans and produce such as carrots and apples, may reduce blood cholesterol levels if eaten regularly.

Move more! Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, such walking, on five or more days of the week. Three 10-minute segments count. Regular physical activity strengthens the heart, improves oxygen delivery to tissues, may lower blood pressure and may increase HDL cholesterol levels.

For more information about food and nutrition, contact the local office of the NDSU Extension Service or visit our website: www.ndsu.edu/eatsmart.


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