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Take care of the one heart that beats for you

Nancy Gessner owns and operates her own weight loss business in Hastings. She can be reached at ngessner@comcast.net.

We've made it through the first month and a half of 2018 and I don't know about you, but I'm thrilled to be back in a normal schedule after the holidays and looking forward to warmer weather.

During the month of February most of us have hearts on own minds. This month not only holds the holiday built to celebrate love, Valentine's Day, but also marks National Heart Month, which is an excellent time to educate yourself on heart health.

Hearts are everywhere this month, but February is about more than just greeting cards, chocolate and romantic dinners. Because it's heart month, it's a time to show your heart some love.

Keeping a healthy heart is key to continuing to have a high quality of life as we age. Taking steps toward better health doesn't have to be complicated. The following are some easy ways to eat healthy and stay active so you can maintain a healthy ticker.

• Pay attention to serving sizes especially when eating away from home, choose small portions or split large ones in half to share or take home.

• Eat at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruits each day. Choose those with the most color — they are packed with cancer-fighting nutrients.

• Choose at least two servings a day of milk and milk products. Select low-fat dairy products whenever possible.

• Include protein-rich foods in your day. Choose fish, poultry or beans as alternatives to red meats, especially those high in fat.

• Choose a variety of whole grains daily. Whole grains supply many nutrients that have been associated with lower risk of cancers.

• Limit foods high in fat, especially those high in saturated fat. Choose lean meats and lower-fat dairy products, and limit high-fat snacks and fried foods.

• Limit alcohol and high-sugar foods and beverages. These foods add calories but very few nutrients so watch how many you eat.

• Drink at least eight glasses of water every day. Staying hydrated is a great way to stay healthy.

• Aim to be active for at least 30 minutes, and at least five days a week. Set a goal to gradually increase your activities each day to achieve the 30 minutes of activity.

• Sit less. Spend less time in front of the TV or computer. Find opportunities to walk. Even a little can add up to a lot because every minute you spend being active increases the calories you burn.

• Do more. Everyday activities can provide great exercise opportunities. Wash your car, work in the garden, play with the kids, be creative!! Just keep moving and make it part of your lifestyle.

So even though February might be known for emotional matters of the heart, it's also a great time to look after the physical matters. By engaging in small changes in your day-to- day life, you may be able to make a big difference for your long-term health during heart month and every month.

Every day, your heart takes care of you. Are you taking care of your heart?