Vanderbilt health educator Stacey Kendrick came up with a list of steps everyone should take to help protect their hearts.

The list was released in honor of February's Heart Month , the University reported.

On the top of this list was the need to reduce the consumption of saturated and trans fats, which should make up no more than 10 percent of one's daily calories intake according to the The Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Reducing one's intake of these harmful fats can be accomplished by choosing lean meats and reduced or fat-free dairy products as well as avoiding processed foods. Next the researcher suggested maintaining a healthy weight, but instead of going on a crash diet making smaller healthy lifestyle changes. This can include being active every day and incorporating healthy fruits and vegetables into one's diet.

The third tip on the list was to use oils that are lowest in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol, such as "canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil" when cooking at home. The fourth tip was not to "feel guilty over a piece of chocolate." This is because nutrients called flavonoids found in coffee, red wine and chocolate have been shown to have vascular benefits.  Eating at home as often as possible was fifth on the list because it allows one to have more control over how the food is prepared. Reducing salt intake was also on the list, and the researchers pointed out that by simply rinsing canned food one can reduce the sodium content by as much as 40 percent.

It is often recommended that adults should get about 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 30 minutes per day. This amount of exercise can be time consuming and challenging; instead the researchers suggest aiming for 10-minute "bouts" of activity every day. Other suggestions on the list for exercise habits included simply adopting a more physical lifestyle or starting a regular physical activity program.