Scott Hoang is a dietetic technician student with Normandale Community College in Bloomington.

The month of February is National Heart Awareness Month. It is important for us to keep our hearts healthy. A healthy heart allows efficient delivery of oxygenated blood and nutrients to our cells and waste out of our body.

Monitoring blood pressure

Heart disease is infamously known as the "silent killer" since signs or symptoms often go unnoticed. According to the American Heart Association, blood pressures of less than 120/80 are considered within the normal range. If you have a high blood pressure, please consult your doctor.

Be mindful of salt

Salt is an electrolyte that helps our body maintain the balance of fluids, nerve impulses, muscle function and hydration. High salt intake may be harmful. Risk factors that are related with a high-sodium diet include high blood pressure and heart/renal failure. According to the American Heart Association, "The recommended daily intake of salt for a healthy adult is 2,300 milligrams per day." If you are a visual learner, 2,300 milligrams is half of a teaspoon.

There are many different foods that are high in salt. Some foods that are known to have high salt content include pizza, canned soups, cold cuts/cured meats and bread. The best way to monitor salt intake is to look at the nutrition label of food items. Try to aim for 140 milligrams of sodium per serving, or 5 percent if you are looking at the nutrition label.

If you are eating out, one piece of advice is to ask the server for low-sodium options or ask the server to put any sauces on the side so that you can control the amount of sodium you take in. Another idea is conducting your own research online to see if there are any low-salt meals at the restaurant. This planning ahead will help with any impulsive choices at the time of ordering.

Get active and eat well

While there are factors that affect our blood pressure such as age and race, there are situations that we can control to directly assist with our goal. Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables will help control blood pressure through fiber. In addition, engaging in physical activities for at least 30 minutes a day can help lower blood pressure. Physical activities can include 30 minutes of yoga, dancing or even spinning your arms in circles while you are sitting.

Small changes, huge difference

It is unlikely, if not impossible, for a person to change their lifelong dietary and lifestyle changes overnight. It is best to make small changes one at a time, for these small changes will add up in the long run. The goal here is to decrease the amount of overall salt consumed. After a few weeks, your taste buds will adjust and you will start enjoying foods that are low in salt.