Fruit and vegetables in a heart shape

Heart-Smart Living

February is American Heart Month – a time to spread love to others and to ourselves by understanding our heart-disease risk and taking positive steps to be heart-healthy. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing over 800,000 Americans per year (roughly one of every three deaths). About 2,200 Americans die of CVD every day – an average of 1 death every 40 seconds. CVD claims more lives each year than all forms of cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease combined.1

At SPINS, we admire the important work that AHA does to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. We’re also proud to announce our upcoming partnership with AHA. By adding AHA’s Heart-Check food certification to SPINS’ Product Library, we’ll be able to work together to deliver vital information about heart-healthy products in the marketplace. As AHA’s Heart-Check mark helps consumers choose heart-healthy foods, its appearance in SPINS’ Product Library will allow us to work together on the shared elements of our respective missions, including contributing to a healthier America.

Another way SPINS acts on our mission to encourage healthier, more vibrant living is through one of our monthly deliverables to our retailer partners. Our Consumer Corner articles provide retailers the nutritional expertise and the language to help educate and engage their shoppers on how to make healthier decisions at the shelf. This month’s Consumer Corner is on Heart-Smart Living. Here’s a taste of a few of the insights shared by SPINS’ Director of Scientific & Regulatory Affairs Jamie Phillips, MS, RDN, in this month’s article:

Know Your Risk Factors

While the statistics on heart disease are sobering, 80% of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes.1 Knowing your risk factors is an important first step. While some risk factors, like age, sex, and family history, can’t be controlled, there are others that can be managed with proper diet, exercise, and medications as needed.

Heart-Smart Eating

Heart-healthy eating is important for people of all ages. It doesn’t have to cost more or include complicated or fancy foods. Here are tips to help you get started on your simple, heart-smart eating plan.

  • Eat moderate portions of nutrient-dense food. Minimize heavily processed foods or foods with empty calories from added sugar, such as cookies, cakes, candy, ice cream, crackers, chips, soda, and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Eat your fruits and veggies! Fruits and vegetables are important contributors of vitamins, minerals, and fiber to the diet. For a standard 2000-kcal diet, that’s 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of veggies per day.
  • Make half your grains whole grains. Choose 100% whole-wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, and cereal products like oatmeal.
  • Choose leaner cuts of meat, and trim visible fats. Limit breaded and fried preparations, and choose baked, grilled, or steamed options instead.
  • Incorporate two servings of seafood per week. Certain types of fish, like salmon or tuna, are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Choose healthy fats. Replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats.
  • Snack smart. Instead of viewing snacks as something separate from your healthy meal plan, use snacks to fill in servings of healthy foods that are missing from your meals, and focus on whole foods like fruits or veggies. Nuts can be part of a heart-healthy diet, but keep an eye on portion size because the calories can add up quickly. The standard serving size is one-quarter cup.
  • Skip the salt! Prepare foods with little to no added salt. Use fresh lemon or other seasonings to add flavor. For packaged foods, look for no-added-sodium or less-sodium varieties where possible. The daily value for sodium is 2300mg per day, but the American Heart Association recommends a more aggressive target of under 1500mg of sodium per day for most adults. Potassium-rich foods are also important for healthy individuals to choose because they help lessen the effects of excess sodium – the more potassium one eats, the more sodium will be excreted through urine. However, people with kidney disease should discuss potassium intake with their MD.
  • Listen to your body. Be mindful of what you are eating – how much, how often, and when. It’s easy to munch mindlessly and derail your best efforts to maintain a healthy weight. Slow down and savor each bite. Sometimes people can mistake thirst for hunger, so if you’ve eaten recently and are still hungry, try to have a glass of water before you eat again. If that doesn’t do the trick, snack on some fresh fruits or veggies to help hold you over until your next meal.
  • For adults of legal drinking age, alcoholic beverages can still be enjoyed responsibly. That is one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. A standard drink is a 12 fl. oz of beer (5% alcohol), 5 oz. of wine, or 1.5 oz. of distilled spirits (e.g., vodka, rum, or gin).

By following these tips, you and your family can take positive steps to reduce the risk of heart disease and be heart-smart in February and beyond.

We look forward to sharing more details of our partnership with the American Heart Association soon!

Retailers: interested in receiving exclusive research and resources from SPINS? Contact your SPINS representative, or email [email protected] to learn more about partnership opportunities – at no cost to you!


  1. Benjamin EJ et al., on behalf of the American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2018 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2018;137:e000–e000. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000558