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Want to improve your heart health? Here are some simple swaps to try in your daily life

A cardiologist shares some easy changes you can make to keep your ticker in tip-top shape.

MINNEAPOLIS — June is Men's Heart Month, and cardiologists are on a mission to spread the word about ways to prevent heart disease. 

One of those cardiologists is Dr. Joe Browning. Every day he deals with people who are having heart issues. Some of the factors, like age and family history are inescapable, but there are controllable factors. A few he listed were smoking status, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetic status, physical activity, and diet.

He said it just comes down to making the right choice and for a healthy heart. “There’s both medication and there’s lifestyle and they work together, but the cornerstone is lifestyle,” said Browning. 

One of the easiest places to start making positive changes is with eating habits.

Cholesterol levels can be lowered by adopting the right food lifestyle. Vegetables are a staple when it comes to lowering or maintaining a healthy cholesterol level but that doesn’t mean meat is completely off the menu. Dr. Browning has a simple way to remember you’re making the best heart-healthy choices. “ My rule is the less legs on the animal the healthier it is for you," he said. "So, that would put fish at the top as far as the health and then the poultry and then you get into the four-legged critters.”

While grocery shopping, stick to the outside of the store where the healthy foods tend to be. The maze in the middle is typically where all the high sodium canned, bagged, and boxed foods are. 

When it comes to fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are the ones to look for. They are generally found in vegetables and plant-based products. On the other side of the spectrum try to limit trans-fat and saturated fat intake as those have been linked to heart disease.

Dining out can be the toughest challenge. Dr. Browning suggests keeping it simple and making easy swaps. “Instead of getting the hamburger with fries order a chicken sandwich with a vegetable side,” he said. 

Often, taking steps taken to lower cholesterol will also result in weight loss, which has numerous benefits like lowered blood pressure, controllable blood sugar levels in diabetics and more energy. When these changes are made and a healthy lifestyle is maintained Dr. Browning sees the effects carry over, saying “You see a change in their attitude to life in general so it is gratifying when people can make those positive changes.”