Coronavirus (COVID-19) Preparedness Information Learn More
Take Care of Your Heart Today
Each February, we focus on heart health and the essential role it plays in our overall well-being, as part of American Heart Month. Maintaining good heart health can help you add years to your life. This year, we’re celebrating 28 Days of Heart Health. Come back to our website each day this month for short articles, featuring recipes, tips, exercise ideas and important info to help you stay heart smart.
Welcome to 28 Days of Heart Health
Each February, we mark American Heart Month – a great opportunity to focus on heart health and essential role it plays in your overall well-being, today and every day. In fact, maintaining good heart health can help you add years to your life so you can enjoy many more days to come. So, welcome to the 28 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
2 bell 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 Disease Away
Did you know that exercising as little as 30 minutes every 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 or sunset walk in the neighborhood. 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 weight gain.
- 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 walk with someone from your household who you’ve been “quarantining” with.
Schedule too 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.
So, let’s get up and start moving today! Your heart will thank you.
Not All Symptoms Are Obvious: Overlooked Symptoms to Watch
We’ve all 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!”
While that 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 today to see what’s going on.
Heart Disease 101: Warning Signs for Women
As the 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.
The primary 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 care.
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, today and every day.
10 Pantry Essentials
- Dinner starters: Dried beans, low-salt canned items like beans, tuna and salmon
- Rolled, steel-cut or Irish oats
- Brown rice, wild rice and/or brown basmati rice
- Whole wheat pastas
- Reduced-sodium chicken, beef and vegetable broths
- Plain popcorn or light (98% fat -free) microwave popcorn
- Reduced sodium canned diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes and tomato sauce
- Assorted raw nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds)
- Olive oil
- Dried herbs and spices
10 Fridge and Freezer Essentials
- Fresh seasonal fruits
- Fresh colorful veggies
- Fresh green veggies
- Frozen veggies
- Milk alternatives like soy or almond milk
- Egg whites or egg substitutes
- Low-fat yogurt, 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 turkey
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:
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 130-139/80-89.
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 levels:
- Total cholesterol: less than 200
- HDL (good): 50 or higher for women, 40 or higher for men
- LDL (bad): Less than 100
- Triglycerides: Less than 150
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 daily lifestyle to get them in a healthy range.
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) Life’s 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 every day: 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 try. Cook one up today!
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 keep warm.
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
As we have been spending more time at home – both leisure and work time – during the pandemic, there’s a good chance that many of us may spend too much time sitting! 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 active:
- Stand up to take phone calls.
- Hold standing meetings.
- Hold walking meetings.
- 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 door when going to the store.
- Consider walking or biking places, 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 made today can add up to big results when it comes to your health every day.
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.
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.
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 caught early.
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 matters.
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 today and every day.
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 every day. Plan a fun activity at home with your kids, play with your pet, check a funny book out of the library or watch your favorite comedy.