It’s important to be heart healthy
by Emma Anne Hallman
Feb 17, 2013 | 1443 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
February is a month dedicated to the heart in more ways than one.  While this time of the year is set aside not only to celebrate love and Valentine’s Day, it is also an occasion to call attention to preventing America’s number one killer of women — heart disease.

While 1 in 2.4 women die of heart disease, it is also prevalent in men too. February is Heart Month. Check out these tips to spend the rest of the year heart smart.

Know If You’re At Risk

Common factors that are associated with heart disease are high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, tobacco use, unhealthy dieting, family history of heart disease, being 55 or older, physical inactivity and second-hand smoke.


Warning Signs

Some hearts attacks happen suddenly with intense sharp pain while others gradually start with mild pain or just discomfort. Often symptoms are overlooked, and the person waits too long before receiving help.  

The most common symptom in both men and women is chest pain. Heart attack signs can also include discomfort in the chest or upper torso, shortness of breath, a cold sweat, nausea or being light headed.  

Bump Up Your Nutrition

To help prevent heart disease, boost your diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and fat free or low-fat dairy products. Avoid foods that are high in sodium, fats and sugar.  Reading food labels on packages and containers of food can help a cook determine healthier products and be a more health conscience shopper.  

Vary Your Vegetables — Buy all types of vegetables whether they are canned, fresh or frozen.  Fresh vegetables allow for better flavor and cost less.  However, you can get the same nutrients from frozen or canned vegetables.  Frozen veggies allow for quick side dishes with meals.  Avoid frozen vegetables with sauces and butter. Look for reduced fat and low sodium vegetables when buying canned goods.  

Focus on Fruits — Put fruit in visible spots in your kitchen like the table, counter or cut up in the fridge.  Buy fruits that are in-season to lower costs or fruits that are dried, frozen, canned in water or 100% juice to increase different key nutrients.

Stock Up on Whole Grains — Substitute whole grain products versus refined grain products.  Look to make the switch from white rice to brown rice, whole wheat bagels, English muffins, crackers and varieties of breads, or substitute whole wheat flour for up to half of the flour in pancake, waffle and muffin recipes.  

Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy — Be sure to include a fat-free or low-fat milk or dairy product in all meals.  If making the immediate switch, gradually change to the low-fat options to consume fewer calories and less fat.  

Top casseroles, soups or stews with low-fat cheese and try low-fat yogurt for a healthy snack for dipping fruits or vegetables.  

Go lean with protein — Examples of lean choices of meats include lean cuts of round steak, roasts, top loin, top sirloins, and chuck shoulder in beef products.  For lean pork cuts, try pork loin, tenderloin and center loin.  Your leanest poultry choices include boneless, skinless chicken breasts and turkey cutlets.  Cut away all visible fats from meats and try broiling, grilling, roasting rather than frying.  Fish, like tuna or salmon, are another source of protein that contains healthy fats for our body.

Get active

Research has shown that exercising 30- 60 minutes each day helps prevent heart disease and obesity.  Choose activities that can be easily and regularly repeated.  Look for opportunities to do the following: join a walking group, walk laps around a local mall or store, do stretches, exercise or pedal an imaginary bike while watching TV, take part in an exercise program, join the office softball team, swim or do water aerobics, carry your golf clubs rather than ride in a cart or take up racquetball or tennis.  

When considering the need to being heart healthy, there are many different ways to make it happen.  Try different methods and see what works best for you.

Emma Anne Hallman works with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System as the Nutrition Education agent serving Walker and Marion counties.

Heart Healthy Recipes

Lemon Chicken

Cooking spray

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, visible fat removed

1 lemon

¼ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon dried parsley

½ teaspoon dried oregano

Pound chicken to even thinness (about 1 inch).  Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray, place over medium heat.  Add chicken to skillet and squeeze juice of ½ the lemon over the chicken.  Sprinkle pepper, parsley and oregano over the chicken.  Cook for 5-10 minutes on each side

Glazed Root Vegetables

1 small sweet potato, cut in to 1-inch cubes (peeled or unpeeled)

½ cup baby carrots, cut in to 1-inch pieces

1 small turnip, cut in to 1-inch cubes

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon light tub margarine

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine vegetables in a medium mixing bowl and toss with olive oil to coat.  Spread vegetables on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.  

Stir vegetables and bake an additional 20 minutes until vegetables are tender (pierce easily with a fork) and are lightly browned. Return vegetables to mixing bowl and add margarine, cinnamon and brown sugar.  

Toss until margarine is melted and vegetables are coated with cinnamon and sugar.