by Dani Stone
Americans spend a lot of money and time trying to get fit and lose weight. We pour over diet books, hire personal trainers, and pay for diet programs that help us count calories and track miles on the treadmill. Dr. Martha Grogan, a cardiologist with the Mayo Clinic and medical editor for the new book Heart Healthy For Life says there’s a simpler equation we can use to achieve a healthy lifestyle and improve heart health. The answer, she says, lies in the simple equation Eat 5, Move 10, Sleep 8.
Eat 5 refers to eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. “The great thing about eating fruits and vegetables, they have all kinds of beneficial effects to your heart and for your health in general,” says Grogan. Working this number in to your daily routine can be quite easy if you make a conscious effort to do so and maybe even plan ahead when you’re at the grocery store. A typical day could look like this: Have a banana with breakfast, a juicy peach as a midday snack alongside a cheese stick, a salad of leafy greens with cucumbers and green pepper for lunch and for dinner, serve a side of asparagus along with lean meat, fish or chicken. Look at that, we actually got 6 servings in there.
February is American Heart Month. There have been many public service announcements, ads, and campaigns to bring awareness about the things you can do to improve your heart health. Eating right and getting exercise top the lists of heart healthy choices however, a new addition to the lists may be to get a pet.
A recent Japanese study found that pet owners with chronic diseases appeared to have healthier hearts than those without pets. These findings were published in the American Journal of Cardiology and specifically noted that pet owners in this study had a higher heart rate variability verses non-pet owners.
Heart rate variability refers to the patient’s heart’s response to change, such as beating faster in stressful situations. Reduced heart rate variability has been linked to a higher heart disease mortality risk. The study specifically monitored 191 people between the ages of 60-80 years old. All were afflicted with conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. They were monitored for a 24 hour period and wore heart monitors for the entire study. About four out of every ten people owned a pet.
The study concluded that for pet owners, nearly 5 percent of their heartbeats differed by 50 milliseconds in length. Only 2.5 percent of the non-pet owners had differing heart rates, meaning that non-pet owner’s heart rates changed less or responded to change less.
As part of Heart Health month, the U.S. Post Office is issuing a new stamp to raise awareness about heart disease, which is the leading cause of death among both men and women in America. The image evokes both healthy eating and physical movement, two key elements to a heart healthy lifestyle. The stamp is also being used to help promote the Million Hearts initiative, which was lunched in September 2011 by the Department of Health and Human Services with the goal of reducing heart attacks and strokes by 1 million over the next five years.
Last night, the Heart Health Forever Stamps were featured during The Biggest Loser as part of a sweepstakes. To enter the “Watch It. Write It. Win It.” sweepstakes, fans are asked to write letters of encouragement to the contestants for a chance to win a trip to the Biggest Loser Resort, a month of healthy meals or tickets to the Biggest Loser finale. Viewers can write to previously eliminated contestants from the current season. Visit the USPS website for more information about the giveaway.
So you’re an Italian who loves good food, even better wine, and you have your name behind some of the finest restaurants in the country. Sounds like the good life, right? Then, you visit the doctor and learn that you have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and you’re going to have to make some changes. For many, this would be an end to the road of a life of feel-good, taste-good indulgence. However, it might have just been the beginning for Joe Bastianich.
“I’m enthusiastic to share how healthy living transformed my own life,” Joe told us in an interview. His diagnosis of these early indicators for heart disease forced him to make some changes in his lifestyle, and the result is inspiring and attainable for anyone. He credits diet, exercise and medication with helping him to “no longer have any medical conditions.”
Joe has previously taken Lipitor, a popular cholesterol-lowering drug that he also represents, and follows a heart-healthy diet and a daily fitness regimen which he credits with helping him to change the course of his health. “Lipitor, regular exercise, and a new way of thinking about food and eating,” point this proud Italian in a better direction.
He says he fell in love with running, something that is “very much a part of my life.” Last year he completed the world championship ironman competition in Kona, Hawaii, and next month you’ll see him running the LA Marathon. He’s looking at a half-ironman competition in Italy this summer, too. For him, “running, cycling, and swimming is my personal time, my meditation time.” More than his fitness and general health, his training contributes to his “mental health and overall productivity.” He takes time every day to eat right and allow himself to train. (more…)
Prepared by Director of Nutrition of CalorieCount.com Rachel Berman RD
While you are thinking about what to buy that special someone for Valentine’s Day this February, also consider giving yourself the gift of heart health. Whether you have dropped off on your New Year’s Resolution or just need a renewed sense of motivation, the American Heart Association’s designated Heart Health Month has come at a perfect time. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in America and by making swaps in your diet you can take steps towards prevention.
Love it: Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats found in oily fish, enriched products such as eggs, and supplements. They can reduce your risk for heart disease by lowering blood pressure, increasing ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, and reducing inflammation in your body that can damage blood vessels. A study published this month in Circulation, also found that older adults with higher levels of omega-3 in their blood were 30% less likely to suffer from an irregular heartbeat. If you aren’t a fan of fish like salmon or tuna, you can also get a dose of omega-3 in with flaxseed and walnuts.
Leave it: Saturated & trans fatty acids
Foods high in saturated fat raise blood cholesterol which can damage your arteries and lead to a heart attack or stroke. Saturated fat is found in full fat dairy, meats and even some vegetable products like coconut and palm kernel oil. Read labels to avoid products with trans fat. It is a man-made product that increases ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, and suppresses protective, ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.