February is American Heart Month!

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease “is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.” With February being American Heart Month, it is the perfect time to draw attention to heart health and how to improve your heart health while on campus.

High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and smoking can put people at any age at risk for heart disease. Luckily, there are easy ways to take better care of your heart.

Being active and getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day will help reduce blood pressure. With class schedules, work schedules, bad weather, homework and other obligations that fill up the day, it can sometimes seem like there is not the time to exercise or it is easier to put it off until the next day.

However, there are a few simple exercises that can be done in small increments throughout the day that can help you maintain a healthier lifestyle. Squats are an equipment free exercise that can be done practically anywhere for any amount of time! Squats are great for those moments when you’re microwaving your breakfast or waiting for your roommate to get out of the shower.

  Other great, easy and quick exercises are jumping jacks, leg lifts and sit ups. The important thing to remember for all these exercises is form. If you’re unsure if you’re doing it correctly, look up a video or pictures of a professional performing the exercise.

Changing your diet is also a great way to promote heart health. With tempting cafeteria foods and packaged snacks, college students are at risk of developing a diet that can lead to high cholesterol and blood pressure, but it is not impossible to make quick and healthy meals in your dorm room!

Mason Jar salads are great for people with tight schedules who love to plan. You can use practically any salad recipe, but some ingredients like legumes, leafy greens, quinoa and carrots will last longer in the refrigerator than others, so try to use ingredients that can keep in your fridge if you are planning to meal prep.

Start by putting about two tablespoons of your salad dressing in the bottom of a 16-ounce mason jar. Next, you add your grains and proteins. Then, you can add everything except leafy greens like carrots, cheese, sunflower seeds, tomatoes or other ingredients you have on hand. Finally, add your leafy greens or lettuce, screw the top on your jar, stick it in the fridge and pull it out the next time you are in a rush.

Avoiding foods that are high in sodium and triglycerides can also help you create a new diet that takes better care of your heart.

Even with packed schedules, it is important to take care of yourself! Take the time in February to start new healthy habits. Start a walking club with your friends, host a salad party where everyone brings their favorite topping and don’t forget to have fun!

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