February is Heart Awareness Month and a great opportunity to discuss cardiovascular disease and heart health. Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Over 2,000 Americans a day die from cardiovascular disease.
Million Hearts - an organization focused on enhancing cardiovascular disease prevention activities has established a national initiative which works with communities, health systems, federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and private-sector partners to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.
Million Hearts plans to do this by:
- Improving access to effective care
- Improving the quality of care for the ABCS
- Focusing clinical attention on the prevention of heart attack and stroke
- Activating the public to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle
- Improving the prescription and adherence to appropriate medications for the ABCS
Know Your ABCs To Improve Heart Health
A Appropriate aspirin use Ask your doctor if aspirin will reduce your risk for heart attacks.
B - Blood pressure control You can control your blood pressure and reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke.
C Cholesterol management Your healthcare professional can provide guidance to help you lower your cholesterol levels if theyre high.
S - Smoking cessation Ask your healthcare professional to connect you with tools to help you quit smoking.
Foods That Are Great For Your Heart
Its not hard to follow a heart-healthy diet. Here are some satisfying foods that are also good for your heart.
Avocados are packed with heart-healthy fat and allow for the absorption of carotenoids. According to the American Heart Association, good fats are those that can lower bad cholesterol levels and are beneficial when consumed in moderation. Avocados contribute good fats to one's diet, providing 3 grams of monounsaturated fat and 0.5 polyunsaturated grams fat per 1-oz. serving. Avocados are virtually the only fruit that contains monounsaturated fat to help lower LDL levels and raise HDL cholesterol levels. They are also cholesterol and sodium free.
Berries including blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are all great for vascular health and are packed with anti-inflammatories to reduce cancer and heart disease risks. A new study published in Circulation reports that young women that consume blueberries and strawberries may have a reduced risk of heart attack.
Broccoli is high in vitamin C and dietary fiber and contains multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties. It is also rich in lutein and a good amount of beta-carotene. A few years ago researchers in the United Kingdom stated in a study for the journal Diabetes that eating broccoli could reverse the damage done to heart blood vessels by diabetes because the vegetable contains a compound called sulforaphane and that it increased enzymes to protect heart blood vessels and reduced molecules that damage them.
Fatty fish salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, halibut, Lake Trout and Albacore Tuna are considered heart healthy because of their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids which reduce blood pressure and the risk of developing blood clots.
Information provided by the National Institutes of Health, states that flaxseed and its components may improve cardiovascular health because of its numerous attributes. Ground flaxseed is loaded with fiber, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and is great when used as a topping for oatmeal and whole-grain cereal. It also contains soluble and insoluble fiber as well as lignans, which have plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities. There is evidence that flaxseed may help reduce risk of cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart disease.
Legumes such as chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans and lentils are loaded with calcium, soluble fiber and omega-3 fatty acids to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure as well as lose weight. The Cleveland Clinic lists legumes as a great addition to your diet for boosting heart health and reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Nuts such as almond, macadamia and walnut - are considered a great source of healthy fat and to increase fiber in the diet. The Mayo Clinic states that eating nuts as part of a healthy diet can be good for your heart by lowering the LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol levels in the blood, reduce the risk of developing blood clots that can cause fatal heart attack, and improve the health of the lining of your arteries. Most nuts contain at least some heart-healthy substances including unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamin E, plant sterols and L-arginine.
Oatmeal is a fiber-rich superfood that is loaded with folate, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids. It is also good for your arteries and lowers levels of LDL cholesterol. Coarse or steel-cut oatmeal is recommended over the instant variety because they contain more fiber. The Mayo Clinic also states that oatmeal contains soluble fiber to reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream and reduce LDL.
In addition to its significant contributions to the promotion of eye health and prevention of cancer, spinach also promotes cardiovascular heath, states SuperFoodsRx. The vitamin C, beta-carotene and other nutrients in spinach work together to prevent oxidized cholesterol from building up in the blood vessel walls. Folate is also an important contributor to heart health as it works, along with B6 and betaine, to lower serum levels of the dangerous amino acid homocysteine. The potassium and magnesium in spinach also make significant contributions to heart health and both work to lower blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
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