Andrew Akhaphong is a registered dietitian, precision nutrition sports coach and an ACTION certified personal trainer for Faribault Hy-Vee. He is a native of Farmington. He can be reached at or 507-334-2085.

Roses are red. Violets are blue. Do not forget to love your heart too.

February is American Heart Month which is a good time to think about the facts of heart disease. Heart disease continues to rank at the top each year for chronic conditions in both men and women. It is a term that encompasses many conditions including but not limited to congestive heart failure, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 800,000 people pass due to heart disease each year. About 160,000 of these cases occur in people under 65 years of age.

There are many factors that play into heart disease such as genetics, environmental exposures and conditions like diabetes or kidney disease, but here are some tips to start taking preventive or management measures:

• Go to your dentist. Although research shows poor oral health does not cause heart disease directly, there is evidence that certain oral diseases, if left untreated, may cause problems such as septic embolism (stroke). Septic embolism is when bacteria collects in the blood vessels and eventually form a clot.

• Eat a heart-healthy diet. Research shows the DASH and Mediterranean diets are very effective in prevention. Both of these diets are very similar except the DASH recommends to watch your salt intake to no more than 2,300 mg (1 teaspoon) a day. Both of these diets state to limit saturated fats (solid at room temperature), ingredients with the terms "partially hydrogenated" or "hydrogenated", pre-packaged foods or baked goods, and fried foods. Incorporate more healthy fats such as nuts, canola, olive or even avocado. Consuming at least two or more 3-ounce portions of fatty fish a week like salmon or tuna may decrease your risk of heart disease because of their high omega-3 fatty acid content. Do not like eating fish? Try a burp-free fish oil supplement instead. Ask your doctor before beginning fish oil supplements if you are on a blood thinner like warfarin or Plavix. Increasing fiber intake from sources like fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains or supplements like Metamucil is known to decrease heart disease risk by reducing our absorption of fat and cholesterol.

• Get active. According to the Mayo Clinic, at least 30 minutes of exercise each day can help reduce cholesterol and improve blood pressure. Briskly climb the stairs instead of using the elevator, do squats in-between folding laundry, or join your children in their favorite sport.

• Know the signs of a stroke. Think FAST (face drooping, arm weakness, slurred speech, and time to call 9-1-1).

When initiating a lifestyle change, consult with your doctor regarding new diets, exercise regimens, medications and supplements.