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DENVER — February is National Heart Month, and as part of our “2 Your Health” initiative, we are looking for ways to keep the community heart healthy.

Registered dietitian Suzanne Farrell, from Cherry Creek Nutrition, says most people know to watch the fat in their diet, but some don’t know added sugar can affect heart health as well.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that found people who consumed 21 percent of their calories from added sugar had double the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day, and men consume no more than 9 teaspoons.

So Farrell gives her clients six easy tips to decrease your added sugar consumption:

  1. Eliminate sugary drinks – you may love your fancy coffee drinks, soda, juice or energy drinks, but those can have around 9 teaspoons of added sugar
  2. Read the Food Label – see how much added sugar is in a product
  3. Watch the condiments – ketchup, BBQ sauce and salad dressings can sneak in extra sugar
  4. Remove the health halo – products marked as healthy or organic can still have added sugar
  5. Start your day with more fiber – try a bowl of oatmeal
  6. Ditch the dessert and add fresh fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth

Farrell says it’s important to understand the food label. “You look at the total sugar on something, but look at the ingredient list, and there’s lots of names for sugar, of course high fructose corn syrup, but even honey, agave, cane sugar,  fruit juice concentrate,” she said.

She wants her clients to know, if they make these small changes, they can have a big impact on their overall health.