February is Heart Healthy Month

February is Heart Healthy Month. There’s no excuse to slack off this month by eating the wrong foods. Here are some basic tips for you and your family from Guiding Stars.

Healthy Heart / Mark Topper / CC BY 2.0

What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death and illness among men and women in the United States. This occurs when cholesterol in your bloodstream builds up and slows or restricts blood flow to the heart. Factors contributing to heart disease include age, gender, family history, smoking, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Nutritious and lifestyle changes are often recommended by healthcare providers to decrease your risk of heart disease.

What are the Markers for Heart Disease?

High LDL Cholesterol – A component of plaque, which builds up in the inner walls of the arteries, making them narrow and less flexible.

Low HDL Cholesterol – Carries cholesterol away from the arteries, back to the liver and is passed from the body.

High Triglycerides – A form of fat caused by excess weight, low physical activity, smoking, high consumption of alcohol, and too many refined carbohydrates. High triglycerides can contribute to high total cholesterol levels.

Source: American Heart Association

What Should You Eat?

Fruits and Vegetables

Look For:

  • Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Canned fruit in water or juice
  • Low-sodium canned vegetables


  • Fruit in heavy syrups
  • Any vegetable or fruit that has been fried or breaded
  • Sauces made from butter or cheese


Look For:

  • 100% whole-grain breads, cereals and crackers
  • Whole-grain flour
  • Brown rice
  • Whole-grain pasta
  • Oatmeal, oat bran, quinoa barley, buckwheat


  • Cakes
  • Pies
  • Chips
  • Muffins
  • Doughnuts


Look for:

  • Skim milk
  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy
  • Egg whites
  • Cold water fish
  • Lean cuts of beef and poultry
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts


  • Whole milk
  • Egg yolks
  • Fatty meats
  • Fried or breaded meats, poultry or fish
  • Shrimp
  • Organ meats (e.g. liver)


Look for:

  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Cholesterol-lowering margarine


  • Butter
  • Bacon
  • Gravy
  • Cream sauce
  • Nondairy creamers
  • Palm kernel oils
  • Hydrogenated margarine
  • Partially hydrogenated oils

Download this list as a printable PDF.