This February marks not only American Heart Month, but
another leap year. That means an extra day to enjoy quality time with family
and friends. An extra day to chase after your 2020 goals. And an extra day to
focus on your heart health. Because, while leap year adds an extra day to the
calendar, staying focused on maintaining good heart health can help add years
to your life. So, welcome to the 29 Days of Heart Health.
Each day in
February, we’ll be posting a short article featuring recipes, tips, exercise
ideas and important information to know to help you stay heart smart. We’re
kicking things off today with a recipe for Roasted Salmon with Pesto
Vegetables. It’s a delicious, simple recipe that’s packed with heart-healthy
omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, the American Heart Association advises that
eating salmon and other omega-3-rich foods twice a week can have benefits that
even extend beyond your heart. Bon Appetit!
Roasted Salmon with Pesto Vegetables
peppers, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 6-oz skinless salmon fillets
¼ cup pesto
Heat oven to
450°F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the peppers and onion with the olive
oil. Nestle salmon fillets in the mixture. Season with ¾ tsp salt and ¼ tsp
black pepper. Roast until the salmon is opaque throughout and the vegetables
are tender, eight to 10 minutes. Serve topped with the pesto.
30 Minutes a Day Can Help Keep Heart
Did you know
that exercising as little as 30 minutes each day can improve your heart health
and quality of life? It can even be simple activities that are easier to
incorporate into your schedule, like taking your dog for a jog, tossing a ball
with your kids, dancing with friends or walking. According to the American Heart
Association, walking is the simplest positive change you can make to improve
your heart health. Here’s why:
Studies have shown that for every
hour of walking, you may increase your life expectancy by two hours.
Regular walking can improve your
cholesterol, lower blood pressure, increase your energy and stamina and prevent
Walking is low-risk, easy to begin
and can be done anywhere, anytime.
You can adapt walking to your mood –
go it alone, take your pup or meet up with a friend.
crazy? Try breaking up your 30 minutes into three, 10-minute walk breaks
throughout your day. These can be done before work, during lunch or after
dinner – whatever works for you and is easy to maintain.
get up and start moving! Your heart will thank you.
Not All Symptoms Are Obvious:
Overlooked Symptoms to Watch
seen when heart attacks happen in the movies. A character is walking along
when, suddenly, they grab their chest – wincing with pain – and immediately
tell someone, “Call 911! I’m having a heart attack!”
certainly does happen, the reality is that heart attacks can strike much more
subtly – even happening to someone who otherwise might feel or seem completely
healthy. Below are a few common – and often overlooked – signs that a heart
attack may be approaching. If you have concerns about experiencing these
symptoms, talk to your provider and ask questions about your risk factors so
you can get a pulse on your heart health.
Indigestion. For some of us, indigestion is an
unfortunate everyday occurrence. But for others who may not have a history of
indigestion, it can be a sign that a heart attack is approaching. According to
research by the National Institutes of Health, this can be especially true for
women. Stay alert for indigestion that is combined with jaw, chest or back
pain, anxiety or excessive sweating.
Discomfort in the Stomach, Neck or
Jaw. If you
experience neck or jaw pain not related to an injury, or stomach pain that you
can’t pinpoint, it could be your body’s way of telling you that your heart
needs attention. These symptoms may be combined with generalized weakness or
lack of energy.
Fatigue. Everyone feels fatigue from time to
time. But if the fatigue doesn’t “feel right,” it could be a warning sign of
heart trouble. Often, the fatigue doesn’t feel like anything you may have
experienced before. There can be a generalized weakness associated with it,
combined with other symptoms like shortness of breath. If you’re concerned,
don’t ignore the symptoms. Get checked out. Even if you’re just feeling weaker
than normal, it may be worth giving your provider a call to see what’s going
Heart Disease 101: Warning Signs for
number one killer of men and women in
the U.S., you might think that gender doesn’t matter when it comes to heart
disease. But it does. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), about one in 16 women age 20 and older have coronary heart
disease, while only approximately half of women recognize that heart disease is
women’s number one killer. Additionally, women can sometimes experience heart
attack symptoms differently from men.
signs and symptoms for men and women are chest discomfort (uncomfortable
pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain); discomfort in other areas of the upper
body like one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach; shortness of
breath, with or without chest discomfort; and other signs like cold sweat,
nausea or lightheadedness.
As with men,
the most common symptom for women is chest pain or discomfort. But women are
somewhat more likely to experience some of the other common – and more subtle –
symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, unusual fatigue, nausea/vomiting
and back or jaw pain, sometimes without any obvious chest discomfort.
Particularly alarming is that it isn’t
just heavy smokers, stressed out or overweight women who fall victim to heart
attack. Otherwise healthy women can also suffer a heart attack. And it’s these
women who often write the condition off as something else – the flu or an
unusually stressful period in their life – delaying potentially life-saving
Talk with your primary care provider
about your risk factors and the preventive care options that are right for you.
Give Your Kitchen Pantry Some Love
Eating smart for your heart starts at
home. But how do you know what to stock up on to keep your meals heart-healthy?
We’ve compiled a guide to help you plan your next grocery trip to stock up on
nutritious foods that can help you and your family stay healthy – and satisfied
at the dinner table.
10 Pantry Essentials
Dried beans, low-salt canned items like beans, tuna and salmon
or Irish oats
Brown rice, wild
rice and/or brown basmati rice
Whole wheat pastas
chicken, beef and vegetable broths
Plain popcorn or
light (98% fat -free) microwave popcorn
canned diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes and tomato sauce
Assorted raw nuts
and seeds (almonds, walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds)
Dried herbs and
10 Fridge and Freezer Essentials
Fresh green veggies
like soy or almond milk
Egg whites or egg substitutes
sour cream and cottage cheese
Lean ground turkey
or lean ground beef (the less marbling, the lower the fat content)
Assorted fish like
salmon, tuna, tilapia, etc.
Skinless chicken or
Know Your Numbers
One step in taking an active role in your
health to help ensure a healthy life is by knowing specific numbers that play
an important role for your heart:
Blood pressure Is your blood pressure at normal levels?
One in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, which can lead to heart
disease. Normal range for blood pressure should be below 120/80. If your
numbers are at 120-129/less than 80, your blood pressure would be considered
“elevated.” Hypertension – or high blood pressure – occurs at levels of
Cholesterol How’s your cholesterol? Your healthcare
provider measures three different facets of your cholesterol – HDL (the “good”
kind), LDL (the “bad” kind) and triglycerides (fat used to store excess energy
from the foods you eat). Your goal should be to have the following healthy
less than 200
HDL (good): 50 or
higher for women, 40 or higher for men
LDL (bad): Less
Waist Size Waist size is an important predictor of
heart health complications. At higher risk for heart disease and type 2
diabetes are women with waist sizes greater than 35 inches and men with waists
greater than 40 inches, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
When you meet with your provider, make
sure you understand what these numbers mean for your health and what – if any –
changes you might need to incorporate into your lifestyle to get them in a
Namaste Healthy: The Heart Benefits of Yoga
Manage blood pressure. Control
cholesterol. Reduce blood sugar. Get active. Eat better. Lose weight. Stop
smoking. There’s a reason the most talked about ways to improve your heart
health also make up the American Heart Association’s (AHA) “Simple 7,” a list
of seven lifestyle strategies that can help you lower your risk for heart
disease: they work!
But there’s even another great way to
protect your heart: managing stress. And while there are many ways to
accomplish that feat, there’s one in particular that’s been helping people for
centuries: yoga. Comprising a series of stretches and poses, coordinated with
deep breathing and meditation, yoga is a practice that – according to many
national experts, including the AHA – reaps widespread benefits.
Yoga can lower blood pressure. Yoga’s
calming effect is said to produce benefits as soon as people begin practicing,
including lowering blood pressure and leaving you feeling more relaxed after a
session. In fact, after just 12 weeks, you may see dramatic improvements in
your blood pressure and experience a decrease in cholesterol levels.
Yoga can improve flexibility and exercise performance. After those initial 12 weeks of regular yoga, you may see dramatic
improvements in your ability to exercise.
Yoga helps with healing after heart disease. The aftermath of a serious heart condition can leave someone with
high levels of emotional stress. Yoga has been shown to help patients overcome
depression and grief and improve energy and mood.
Before you grab your mat and get started,
be sure and speak with your provider, especially if you are already living with
a heart condition or have previously suffered from heart disease.
An Egg White a Day…
If you’re an egg lover, you may scoff at
eating just the whites. Not so fast. If you’re open to a change, utilizing just
the whites of the egg every now and then can benefit your heart, particularly
if cholesterol is a concern. Egg whites are low in calories, high in protein
and have no cholesterol. This egg white omelet is a great way to give them a
Egg White Omelet
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 10-oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed (with all excess water squeezed out)
4 plum tomatoes, finely chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
Freshly ground black pepper
12 egg whites
2 tbsp water
Nonstick cooking spray
In a skillet or pan, heat oil over medium
heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until
onion is softened. Add the spinach, cook and stir until hot. Add the tomatoes
and pepper to taste and cook and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover and
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites,
water and a pinch of salt until frothy.
Lightly coat a medium nonstick skillet or
omelet pan with cooking spray and heat skillet over medium heat. Add one-fourth
of the egg white mixture, swirling to evenly cover the bottom of the pan. Cook
for 1 ½ to 2 minutes or until set, using a rubber scraper to lift eggs up
occasionally, letting runny egg flow underneath.
Spoon one-fourth of the spinach mixture
onto half of the omelet, fold over and slide onto a plate. Repeat with
remaining egg whites and spinach mixture to create four omelets.
Workplace Workouts: Easy Ways to Make Your Day More Active
From commuting to work and spending hours
sitting behind a computer to watching TV or surfing the internet, there’s no
doubt that we simply sit too much. The good news is that there are some easy
ways to combat the sedentary lifestyle that can lead to a greater risk of heart
disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and other conditions, and make your day more
Stand up to take
Set a timer to
remind you to stand up and stretch or take a walk every hour.
Take a 30-minute
walk during your lunch hour.
Take the stairs
instead of the elevator.
Park a little
farther away from the front door.
Consider walking or
biking to work, if feasible.
The easiest way to start is to pick one
or two of these and add them to your daily routine. Then when you’ve turned
your new behaviors into a habit, add another. Over time, small changes can add
up to big results when it comes to your health.
More Numbers and a Major Risk Factor to Know
When it comes to heart health, you might
hear your provider talk about your “numbers” – specifics about your health that
play an important role in your heart health and determining your risk for heart
disease. We’ve already talked about blood pressure, cholesterol and waist size,
but there are other numbers that play a part, too.
Blood sugar Like it sounds, blood sugar is the amount
of sugar (glucose) in your blood. Healthy blood sugar levels are lower than 100
mg/dl. For your provider to measure your blood sugar, you may need to fast
prior to your appointment. Scheduling your appointment first thing in the
morning makes your fasting more manageable.
BMI Your body mass index (BMI) gives you a
sense of whether you are at a healthy weight, given your age, gender, height
and frame. A BMI between 18.6 and 24.9 is generally considered healthy.
Know your numbers and speak with your
provider about how you can maintain healthy levels to keep your heart in great
shape for the long run.
Put it Out Did you know that smoking is the leading
cause of preventable death? It is a significant contributor to disease and
disability in nearly every organ of our bodies – including our hearts – and can
increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Smoking cessation is one of
the best things you can do for your health. If you’re a smoker and you’ve tried
to quit before, you probably know it’s not easy. Talk with your provider about
a plan to help you quit. And visit cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/guide-quitting-smoking.html
for more help on smoking cessation.
Is it a sign?
Heart disease is the leading cause of
death for men and women in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), equating to approximately one in four male deaths
and one in five female deaths. One of the ways to help change that statistic is
by staying on top of the warning signs of heart disease so that it can be
So, what are the primary signs in men and
women? When should you call your provider? And when should you call 9-1-1?
While women sometimes experience
non-traditional, more subtle symptoms like sweating, unusual fatigue, nausea or
vomiting, and back, neck or jaw pain, men may experience more traditional
symptoms like chest pain and breaking out into a cold sweat. The primary signs
and symptoms for heart disease are:
Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort
in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that
goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure,
squeezing, fullness or pain.
Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort
in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
Other signs may include breaking out in a cold
sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
If you or
someone you know exhibits signs of heart disease, it’s important to act
quickly. Call 9-1-1 as soon as you suspect trouble. Remember, every minute
You don’t have to experience any warning
signs to address the issue of heart health with your provider. Even without
obvious symptoms, you could be at risk. The CDC reports that half of the men
who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms. If you’re
looking to learn more about risk factors and preventive care options, talk to
your primary care provider about how you can help keep your heart healthy.
A Happy Heart is a Healthy Heart
You’ve heard the phrase, “Laughter is the
best medicine,” right? There might be more truth to it than you think. Not only
is laughter free, but research shows that laughing can strengthen your immune
system, boost your energy, alleviate pain and protect you from the damaging
effects of stress. How, you might ask?
Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good,
hearty laugh can relieve physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles
relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter
decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting
antibodies, thereby helping to improve your resistance to disease.
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an
overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Laughter protects the heart. Laughter
can improve the function of blood vessels and increase blood flow, which can
help protect you against a heart attack and other heart issues.
Find a way to bring a little more
laughter into each day. Plan some organized fun with friends or your kids, play
with your pet, check a funny book out of the library or watch your favorite
Take as Directed: Talking to Your Doctor About Medications
An important step in taking charge of
your health is speaking with your healthcare provider about medications you are
taking, including its favorable results and any potential side effects.
As you age and experience life changes –
including having a baby, undergoing surgery or experiencing other health
events, finding the right medications for you is a crucial conversation to have
with your providers. Below you’ll find a helpful list of questions to ask your
provider when medication is prescribed to you.
What is the name of
the medication, and what is it supposed to do?
How long will it be
before I should expect to see results?
What kind of track
record in terms of effectiveness does this medication have?
What are the
primary short-term side effects of this medicine?
Are there any
long-term side effects I should be aware of, such as diabetes, sexual side
effects or weight gain?
Are there ways to
minimize the side effects?
How and when do I
take it, and when do I stop taking it?
What foods, drinks
or other medications should I avoid while taking this medication?
Should it be taken
with food or on an empty stomach?
Is it safe to drink
alcohol while on this medication?
Is it safe for me
to continue taking aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen (Aleve), vitamins and/or herbal
supplements when taking this medication? Is there something specific I should
Is a generic
What should I do if
I miss a dose?
Keep a current list of your medications
with you at all times. If you start a new medication or discontinue one, update
your list as soon as the change is made.
By learning all you can about the
medications you take, you can take charge of your health and help set yourself
up for success on the road to recovery.
Time Out: Does Your Heart Need a Break?
You wake up early, start making breakfast
and lunches so you can get the kids fed, dressed and out the door in time for
school. Follow that with eight or more hours at the office, sandwiched between
traffic-laden commutes back and forth from the kids’ ball practice and dance
lessons. Once you finally make it home, there’s still dinner to be made, dishes
to be cleaned and baths to be taken. Whew.
Sound like a typical day? If it does, it
might be time to pause, reassess your daily routine and discover some ways to
work in a little more “me-time.”
There are many benefits to taking time
for yourself. A little alone time can help you recharge, improve your focus and
manage stress – which is key to maintaining a healthy heart.
You may be thinking, “Sounds great, but
where in the world would I find the space in my schedule for that?” Well, we
have a few strategies that might help.
Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier. Whether you
choose to sit quietly, have a cup of coffee or sneak in a workout, as little as
30 minutes of quiet time – just for you – before the rest of the house wakes up
can be just what you need to reboot and get ready to face the day with a fresh
energy and outlook.
Schedule it like a business appointment. Block out 15-20 minutes on your calendar each day for some quiet time.
That time is just for you, and you get to choose what to do with it. Take a
walk. Stretch. Or just be still and enjoy the peace and quiet. No matter what
you choose to do with your time, make sure it’s your time.
Unplug. That me-time we
just talked about? Maximize its effectiveness by unplugging. No Facebook,
email, Twitter, etc. Plug your phone in across the room. Let it recharge while you recharge.
Shut the door. Whether you’re
taking your “me-time” at home or at the office, don’t be afraid to shut your
door. This will help keep your “me-time” from becoming “we-time.”
Give Your Brown Bag a Boost
You’re at work. It’s lunchtime. Your
brown bag lunch is waiting for you in the office fridge. Maybe it’s two-day-old
meatloaf. Maybe it’s a turkey sandwich. Either way, you’re not too thrilled
about it. We’ve all been there. We’ve also been there when the co-workers stop
by and invite you out to the new burger joint down the street. This sounds much
better, but at what cost – to your wallet and
your heart? If only you could make your brown bag lunch more exciting.
Well, you can! Start with this Broccoli Salad with Chopped Walnuts. The walnuts
bring antioxidants and a satisfying crunch, the broccoli brings vitamins and
fiber -which can help lower cholesterol, the poultry packs protein and the
dressing adds a delightfully creamy finish.
¼ cup plain low-fat yogurt
¼ cup bottled light ranch salad dressing (make it even more heart-healthy by
subbing lemon juice and olive oil)
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped cooked chicken or turkey
½ cup coarsely chopped broccoli
¼ cup shredded carrot
¼ cup chopped walnuts
In a small bowl, combine yogurt and salad
dressing. In a medium bowl combine chicken, broccoli, carrot and nuts. Pour
yogurt mixture over chicken mixture and toss to coat. For individual lunches,
divide chicken mixture among four plastic cups. Cover and chill for up to 24
Heart Health Starts at Home
After a long day, it’s easy to go home,
put your feet up and grab the remote. This may help you unwind, but it won’t do
your heart any favors. In fact, if you’re like most Americans, it’s enhancing
an already sedentary lifestyle, which can increase your risk for several health
problems, including heart disease.
So tonight, instead of snuggling into the
couch, try incorporating some physical activity into your evening routine
Sit on the floor
and stretch during your favorite show
Set a goal to do 100
jumping jacks, 25 push-ups, 25 lunges and 50 sit-ups.
Dust off the X-Box
or Wii for 30 minutes of dancing, bowling, tennis or another interactive game
Play Twister or
charades with the family
Do squats while you
brush your teeth
The great thing is that exercise doesn’t
have to be “work.” It comes in all shapes and sizes and can be done from the
comfort of your own home!
How Weight Weighs on Your Heart
Many of us have made New Years
resolutions to lose weight, eat healthier and exercise. When we don’t always
follow through, it’s not because we don’t want to be healthier. More often,
life just gets in the way.
But even with life’s challenges, it’s
important for us to find ways to help our heart be healthy. Weight can be a
critical indicator of our risk level for heart problems. More specifically,
where that weight is can also elevate risk.
Location counts A thicker waistline can increase your
risk for heart attack. Stomach fat is linked to high blood sugar, increased blood
pressure and higher levels of triglycerides (fat used to store excess energy
from the foods you eat). Belly fat is more dangerous for your heart as it is
closer to your internal organs. It can also be the hardest kind of fat to lose,
so working with your healthcare provider to create an eating and exercise plan
can be particularly important to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and
enhance your heart health.
Stress can lead to weight gain The stress hormone cortisol can increase
belly fat. It can also narrow your blood vessels, which can raise your blood
pressure as your body tries to boost the flow of blood. If you are frequently
stressed, the process can lead to blood vessel damage and a build-up of plaque.
I want to lose weight. Now what? While there is no one-size-fits-all
approach to losing weight and reducing your waistline, one thing is common: it
starts with a decision to make a change. Talk to your primary care provider
about putting together a nutrition and fitness plan to help you achieve and
maintain a healthy weight. And remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Avoid
the two-week crash diets and opt for a long-term, more sustainable plan.
How to Have a Heart-to-Heart about Health
Understanding the risk factors, signs and
symptoms of heart disease can have a big impact on the likelihood of a positive
outcome and a strong recovery when issues arise. Besides recognizing these in
yourself, it’s also important to be able to recognize them in your loved ones
and be able to comfortably discuss them. By detecting potential heart problems
early, we’re more likely to be able to help keep them from progressing into
serious conditions. But having the conversation can be challenging. Here are a
few tips to consider, if someone close to you is at risk:
Know the symptoms. According to the
American Heart Association, most cardiac arrests that happen outside of the
hospital occur at home, which means a spouse or child is likely to be the first
to respond. Knowing the signs and symptoms will help you recognize a problem
and act quickly and appropriately, including calling 9-1-1 for emergency help.
Share your concerns. The key to
voicing your concerns about a loved one’s health is to do so in a caring and
compassionate manner. Rather than coming across as “nagging,” let the person
know that you care deeply about him or her and are genuinely concerned. Share
any signs or symptoms you’ve noticed and offer to accompany the person to the
doctor as a support system.
Encourage routine check-ups. Routine
visits to a primary care provider are important in establishing a baseline for
health and identifying potential health problems before they become serious.
These should be done regardless of whether specific concerns or symptoms are
present. You may consider scheduling your routine visits with your loved one
together to serve as a support system for each other.
It Does That? Fun Facts About Your Hard-Working Heart
Your heart is one hard-working muscle – a
fascinating, giant pump that’s working every second of every minute of every
day. It’s working hard for you, so let these fun facts about your heart inspire
you to work a little harder to keep it healthy.
Your adult heart beats about 100,000 times a day. That’s at least one beat every second, or 60-100 times a minute,
according to the American Heart Association. For people whose heart rate is
closer to 60 beats per minute, that’s about 86,000 times a day. And it’s
144,000 times a day if your heart rate is closer to 100 beats per minute.
As you get older, your heart rate gets slower. As children grow, their little bodies are constantly undergoing
changes – limbs get longer and bones get stronger. According to the National
Institutes of Health, your heart rate also changes throughout your early life:
0-11 months – 70-160 beats per minute
1-4 years – 80-120 beats per minute
5-9 years – 75-110 beats per minute
A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per
minute. Generally, a
lower heart rate at rest implies better heart health and that your heart is
functioning more efficiently. For example, a well-trained athlete might have a
normal resting heart rate closer to 40 beats per minute.
Your heart rate drops while you sleep. As you sleep, it’s common for heart rates to drop below 60 beats per
minute. Why? Your metabolism slows, which in turn slows your heart and helps
your body relax.
To measure your heart rate, simply check
your pulse. Place your index and third fingers on your neck to the side of your
windpipe. To check your pulse at your wrist, place two fingers between the bone
and the tendon over your radial artery – which is located on the thumb side of
your wrist. When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats in 15 seconds
and multiply that number by four to calculate your beats per minute.
Keep in mind that many factors can
influence heart rate, including:
Fitness and activity levels
Being a smoker
Having heart disease, high cholesterol or
Body position (standing up vs. lying down,
Medications you are currently taking
Although there’s a wide range of normal, an unusually high or low
heart rate may indicate an underlying problem. Consult your provider if your
resting heart rate is consistently above 100 beats a minute (tachycardia) or if
you’re not a trained athlete and your resting heart rate is below 60 beats a
minute (bradycardia) — especially if you have other signs or symptoms, such as
fainting, dizziness or shortness of breath.
Make sure you’re working hard to keep
your heart healthy – just like it’s working hard for you. An annual check-up
with your primary care provider or a cardiologist can help you take a more
active role in your heart health. Make an appointment today.
Your Once-A-Year Day: Annual Screenings are Good for Your Heart
Playing an active role in your preventive
health is a key factor in preventing heart disease and managing your risk
factors for heart problems. And one of the best preventive health measures is
your annual check-up with your primary care provider. Even if you don’t have a
heart condition, it’s essential to schedule and keep annual exams. Make the
most of your time with your provider and ask them about taking these screening
Weight, waist size
and body mass index (BMI)
Your provider will discuss any concerns
that result from these screenings and may suggest specific lifestyle changes or
prescribe you medication to help you manage a particular risk factor. In some
cases, your provider may refer you to a cardiologist for further testing and
evaluation if needed.
Staying on top of your annual check-up
will help you stay on top of your health so that you can keep doing all the
things you love.
Consistently getting a good night’s sleep
is one of the most beneficial things you can do for the health of your mind and
body. And it’s particularly important for your heart. Even though it keeps
beating after you close your eyes, it benefits from the lowered blood pressure
that happens when you drift off to dreamland. Check out these pointers to ward
off tossing and turning and help ensure a deep and relaxing sleep that leaves
you rejuvenated and ready to tackle your day.
Bedroom = Sleep Only Our lives are filled with more
distractions than ever, but it’s a good idea to keep them out of the bedroom.
This means avoiding work, phone calls, television, social media, tablets and
laptops in the bedroom. The light from these screens can make it harder to fall
asleep, confusing your body’s internal clock. And the visual cues they provide
will keep you intrigued and awake when you should be winding down.
Set Yourself Up for Success Your sleeping environment has a big
impact on your sleep. The more you can create a dark room for sleep, the
better. Turn off everything that makes noise. Keep the thermostat cool (cool
rooms induce sleep!). If you toss and turn, try a different pillow or mattress.
Relax Bedtime is often a rushed affair with
hasty teeth brushing and hopping into bed, followed by an impatient wait for
sleep to come. Instead, try a short relaxation routine leading up to falling
asleep. Breathe slowly and deeply after you climb into bed, concentrating on
relaxing one muscle at a time. Say a short, relaxing mantra in your head a few
times. Most importantly, try not to obsess about falling asleep. It may cause
your brain to become overly engaged. If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes,
try reading a book for a few minutes with a dim light.
Make a Routine and Stick to It Have a time that you go to bed and a time
that you wake up each day and stick with them. It can be tempting to sleep in
on the weekends or stay up late to finish that page-turner, but the more you
can stick to your routine every day, the better for your sleep. Also avoid
alcohol, caffeine and spicy or acidic foods as you near your bedtime, as they
can interfere with your sleep.
If these techniques don’t help and you’re
having trouble sleeping, you may have a sleep disorder. Talk with your provider
about your issues and consider making an appointment with a sleep specialist
who can assist you.
We Heart Dessert
How many of us want to beat a hasty path
to the freezer for a few scoops of ice cream after dinner? While it’s nice to
treat yourself from time to time, it’s important to keep the decadent desserts
as a special treat, rather than an every-night occurrence.
Luckily for your sweet tooth, some
desserts are healthier than others, like this recipe for Grilled Peaches with
Yogurt and Honey. When peaches aren’t in season, try swapping them for some
heart-healthy blueberries or raspberries.
¼ cup fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
2 large ripe peaches, cut in half (pit removed)
2 tbsp honey
Combine yogurt and cinnamon. Grill the
peaches, covered on low or indirect heat until soft (about 2-4 minutes on each
side). Drizzle with honey and serve each slice with 1 tbsp of the yogurt
Got Kids? Give ‘Em Heart!
As a parent,
there are a number of great reasons to get your kids to think of their health
as a priority. And there are a number of great ways to help them do that,
including regular physical activity.
Creating a more
active family lifestyle can be done anytime, anywhere. Family walks after
dinner, weekend excursions like hiking or skiing, a trip to the local pool, a
game of pick-up basketball – these are all inexpensive and easy ways to get you
and your kids moving together. If you’re looking for a goal to stay motivated,
consider finding a local 5K and fun run that you and your family can train for
together. Whatever you choose, the bottom line is to get up and get moving.
instilling the importance of regular physical activity to your kids, joining in
the fun as a parent serves as a great example to your kids and allows you the
opportunity to bond with them more.
Your heart and
their hearts will thank you!
Heart Health at Any Age
as we get older. How you took care of yourself in your 20s might be very
different from how you take care of yourself today. That said, it’s important
to understand what you should keep in mind as you age. Check out these pointers
on what to remember as each decade comes and goes, as well as some things to
keep in mind at every age.
All Age Groups: The food you eat can directly contribute to your risk of heart disease,
so choose a healthy eating plan that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains
and lean poultry and fish. Avoid saturated and trans-fats and an excess of
sodium, as well as tobacco products. Pair your healthy eating with regular
physical activity. And be aware of the warning signs of heart disease so you
can stay on top of your health and help stop issues before they become bigger
Your 20s: Find a primary care provider and get in the habit of regular wellness
exams. Even healthy people need providers. Establishing a relationship with one
can have long lasting benefits for your health.
Your 30s: Juggling your job and the needs of a family can start to increase stress
levels and leave little time for physical activity. Make heart healthy living a
family affair with healthy family meals eaten together and family walks each
week. Take some time to learn your family history to spot any indicators of
future heart health issues for yourself, and make sure your primary care
provider is aware of your family medical history. And take some time for you.
Stress can have far-reaching impacts on your overall health – including your
heart – so even if it’s just a hot bath at the end of the day, don’t lose sight
of your own well-being.
Your 40s: You may notice your metabolism slowing down, resulting in the need to
work a little more diligently in both diet and exercise to maintain a healthy
weight. Finding a workout buddy can help keep exercise engaging. Have your
blood sugar checked, in addition to your other heart numbers like blood
pressure and cholesterol. If you’re snoring, it could be a clue that you have
sleep apnea. Talk with your provider about potential solutions, as sleep apnea
can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
Your 50s: Keep up with your healthy eating, taking some time to refresh the healthy
habits you’ve established over the years. Re-familiarize yourself with the
warning signs of heart problems. At this point, despite your best efforts, you
may have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or cholesterol. Follow the
treatment plan your provider sets out for you to lower your risk for
Your 60s and beyond: Continue seeing your provider regularly. If you haven’t already had one,
an ankle-brachial index test can assess the pulse in your feet to help identify
any peripheral artery disease, which is the buildup of plaque in the leg
arteries. Keep paying attention to maintaining a healthy weight, and be careful
not to fall into bad habits. Stay abreast of the warning signs of heart attack,
not just in yourself but in your loved ones as well. Men and women can
experience heart problems differently and it may be up to you to get your
spouse to see a provider.
Heart health is
a lifelong journey. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, engaging with your
provider about your health and knowing what to look for when it comes to
potential issues, you’re going a long way in ensuring a good life for your
heart. After all, we only get one. Take care of it well!
Minutes Matter: Knowing the Signs Can Save a Life
When a heart
attack strikes, minutes matter. Those first few minutes following a heart
attack are critical in determining the short-term and long-term outcome for the
patient. According to the National Institutes of Health, about half of those
who die from heart attacks will die within an hour of their first symptom.
Being able to quickly recognize what’s happening and act can help ensure that
the victim gets proper medical treatment as soon as possible.
If you or
someone around you is experiencing any of the following symptoms, call 9-1-1
immediately to receive help and treatment as quickly as possible.
Heart Attack Symptoms
Chest discomfort (Most heart attacks involve discomfort in
the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away
and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or
Discomfort in other areas of the upper body (Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in
one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.)
Shortness of breath (with or without chest discomfort)
Other signs, including breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or
Face drooping (If you notice one side of your or someone else’s face drooping, or if it
is numb, this is a telltale sign of a stroke. If you are uncertain, ask the
person to smile.)
Arm weakness (Many stroke victims experience weakness or numbness in one arm.)
Speech difficulty (Speech may be slurred, prohibited or difficult to understand. If someone
you are with is experiencing this, ask him or her to repeat a simple sentence,
like “The sky is blue.” If he or she cannot, call 9-1-1 immediately.)
Cardiac Arrest Symptoms
Sudden loss of responsiveness (If the person does not respond when tapped on the shoulder, they are
likely experiencing cardiac arrest.)
No normal breathing (The victim does not take a normal breath when you tilt the head up and
check for at least five seconds.)
Talk with your
provider to learn more about the symptoms and steps you can take today to improve
your heart health.
Five Surprising Ways
to Boost Your Heart Health
You probably know that healthy eating
and regular physical activity are critically important to maintaining good
heart health. But there are a number of other things you can do to give your
heart an extra boost that might surprise you.
Laugh. Research has pointed to laughter having several
benefits for your heart health, including increased blood flow and lowered
stress levels. It turns out that laughter really is one of the best medicines,
Have a little dark
chocolate. Yep. You heard us. Dark chocolate contains polyphenols,
which reduce the number of cell-damaging free radicals in your body. Just don’t
go overboard – research suggests indulging three times a month.
Be a good neighbor. Next
time you see your neighbor, say hi! According to a University of Michigan
study, people who felt like a part of their community, trusted their neighbors
and felt safe were 34 percent less likely to have a heart attack.
Spend time with your pet.
Some studies have shown that owning a pet can help increase physical
activity and lower blood pressure.
Get a flu shot. A
study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in
2013 showed that persons who received a flu shot reduced their risk of heart
disease, stroke, heart failure or death from cardiac-related causes by roughly
Heart Disease: An
You’ve got your father’s
eyes, your grandmother’s laugh, but what about your uncle’s heart disease?
While many inherited traits are good, others – like heart disease – aren’t.
It’s important to know how your family’s history with heart disease can affect
your own heart health.
If you don’t know your
family’s full health history, start with your immediate family first. Find out
if your siblings, parents or grandparents had or have heart disease. Share this
information with your primary care provider so that they can help you develop a
preventive care plan that works best for you.
Even if your family has a
clean bill of health, it’s still a good idea to talk with your provider about
your risks, as there are other genetic factors that may increase your risk for
While you can’t choose your
genes, you can take preventive measures to reduce your risk – like healthy
eating, regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding
tobacco and staying on top of your numbers like blood pressure and cholesterol.
Did You Brush? The
Surprising Link Between Dental Health and Your Heart
How well do you take care of
your teeth and gums? Some research has shown a link between poor oral health
and poor heart health. Studies have shown a link between gum disease and
increased heart disease risk and that poor oral health can increase the risk of
bacterial infection in your bloodstream. One study published by the American
Heart Association showed gum disease appearing to worsen blood pressure and
interferes with hypertension medications.
While there’s no proof of poor
oral health as a specific cause for heart disease, it’s still important to take
care of your teeth and gums as part of your overall health plan. Brushing your
teeth at least twice daily, flossing daily and scheduling regular dental
cleanings and check-ups will keep you on the right path of good oral health.
Thank you for joining us on
this 29-day journey of heart health. We hope you’ve found it helpful and that
you’ve learned something about your heart that you may not have known before.
Remember, heart health isn’t
about a crash diet. It’s not about getting up at 5 am to run 10 miles every day
or vowing to never eat dessert again. And it’s not a sprint. It’s a commitment
to yourself and your family to make heart health – and your overall health – a
priority in your life. It’s about establishing healthy habits that will help
sustain your heart for years to come.
Before you go, here’s one
more recipe that’s a great heart-healthy addition to your collection.
Heat oil in a
large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring
occasionally, until softened, about five minutes. Stir in chiles, oregano,
cumin and cayenne pepper. Stir occasionally, for five minutes. Stir in beans
and broth and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
Add chicken and vinegar and cook for five minutes more.