Our hearts are healthier together. That’s the theme for American Heart Month 2019, an initiative from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. It kicked off with National Wear Red Day on February 1st, and continues with fun and inspiring events all month long.

As a cardiac dietitian, I love this year’s theme because it encourages and motivates everyone to adopt heart healthy behaviors together. I see it every day with my patients who are trying to adopt a more heart-healthy diet- the success rates are markedly higher when friends and loved ones are on board and making the changes alongside the patient.

Week one of American Heart Month this year is all about our hearts at work. In the first week of February, think about organizing a heart-healthy potluck with your co-workers, have a walking meeting, or make a point to pack snacks all week that your heart will love, like this creamy avocado hummus paired with some crisp, raw veggies. This recipe contains not only the cardio-protective benefits of avocados, which contain mono-unsaturated fats, but also heart-healthy protein-packed Greek yogurt.

Week two of Heart Month focuses on our hearts at home. To ensure you are eating right at home, have heathy staples on hand. If you’ve got the basics in your pantry and fridge, then making a heart-healthy meal or snack in a pinch is a snap!  If dairy foods are not at the top of your shopping list this month, they should be. Dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, contribute to a heart healthy eating pattern by providing calcium, potassium and vitamin D, nutrients the 2015 Dietary Guidelines stated Americans are not consuming enough of.

Weeks three and four of Heart Month are all about community and outreach. Seek out a Heart Walk in your area or check out National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Facebook page for a live Heart Month Cooking Demo on February 26th.

Whatever your plans are for the month of February, hopefully you’ll find time to celebrate your heart and those of the ones you love. Happy Heart Month!

Katherine Basbaum is a clinical dietitian for the Heart & Vascular Center at UVA Health System.  Katherine is passionate about nutrition as medicine for chronic disease and believes the key to her patients’ success lies in the establishment of realistic, achievable goals.