Protect Your Heart This Valentine’s Day

February is American Heart Month! Even though I can’t offer much insight into finding you a valentine, some new research may shed light on other matters of the heart. You may have seen recent articles in TIME or FOX News talking about a new study by the American Heart Association—covering which fats you should consume to lower your risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). So before you eat that entire box of assorted chocolates, check out what the original research tells us.

What Researchers Found
The Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) published a study on behalf of the Global Burden of Diseases Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group. Researchers gathered information from different countries’ dietary reports and available food data, and then analyzed the effects of different dietary fats on CHD death rates. They found that people across the world had higher rates of CHD death if they were consuming diets low in healthy unsaturated fats (called n-6 PUFAs) along with excessive amounts of saturated and trans fat (called PFAs and TFAs). They also found lowered CHD death rates when PFAs and TFAs were replaced with n-6 PUFAs (compared to the other way around, or cutting fat out altogether).

The Big Picture
According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the leading causes of death worldwide. And, as it turns out, aging itself is the leading independent risk factor for CVD, so it’s critically important to identify how to protect ourselves from CVD as we get older. This study gives us some helpful insight on how to do that: switch out bad fats for healthier unsaturated fats. For example, instead of meals that rely heavily on animal fats like meat and butter, try switching them out for soybeans and vegetable oils. But, this is only one route of many you can take to protect your heart.

Lifestyle Changes for a Healthy Heart
Other ways to reduce your risk for CHD and other cardiovascular diseases:

(Feature image courtesy of

Nicolette Hoke

Nicolette Hoke is an intern with the Healthy Aging Project, and a student in the Integrative Physiology Department at the University of Colorado Boulder.