February is American Heart Month, and there is no better time to start thinking about how your lifestyle might be impacting your risk for heart disease, America’s No. 1 killer. The good news is that many of the risk factors are within your control.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you can decrease your risk for heart disease and prevent current heart disease from worsening by quitting smoking, managing stress, reducing your blood pressure and cholesterol, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing abdominal fat.

The Department of Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend you follow these suggestions to lower your risk of heart disease:

●Balance calories with physical activity to manage weight.

●Consume more of certain foods and nutrients such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products and seafood.

Elaine Gordon’s walnut-crusted salmon. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)

●Consume fewer foods with salt, saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, added sugars and refined grains.

A heart-healthy recipe

To kick-start a heart-healthy diet, try this delicious and beneficial recipe featuring salmon and walnuts, which both contain omega-3 essential fatty acids. Omega-3s could lower your overall risk of heart disease, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. An added bonus: Omega-3s also reduce joint pain and improve brain function and development.

This recipe is prepared by baking the fish, which is a great cooking technique if you want to avoid extra fat.

Why salmon?

The U.S. Agriculture Department recommends consuming a variety of seafood twice a week (about eight ounces per week) to help prevent heart disease. Specifically, you should aim to include fish that are higher in omega-3s and lower in mercury such as salmon, trout, oysters, Atlantic and Pacific mackerel, herring and sardines.

Why walnuts?

Walnuts also promote heart health: They contain omega-3 fatty acids, help lower cholesterol and are a good source of magnesium, which can lower blood pressure. They make for a great snack anytime of day because they help you feel full and can control blood sugar levels.

Elaine Gordon’s walnut-crusted salmon

Gordon, a master of public health professional and a master certified health education specialist, is creator of the healthy recipe site EatingbyElaine.com.


Recipe Finder The Post’s Food section has more healthful recipes at washingtonpost.com/recipes .

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