Time for a Heart-to-Heart

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February is Heart Health Month—which raises awareness about heart disease and how people can prevent it. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 610,000 Americans die every year—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths! Protecting our heart is one of the most important things we can do—if we don’t, we put ourselves at a higher risk for heart disease. On a happier note, heart disease can often be prevented when people make healthy choices and manage their health conditions. Continue reading

The Pressure’s On

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High blood pressure (HBP), or hypertension, – sometimes referred to as “the silent killer” – is not to be taken lightly.  According to The American Heart Association, contrary to belief, HBP is actually considered a symptomless disease.  If left untreated, HBP can cause damage to your arteries, heart and other organs; it is essential that you maintain a healthy lifestyle and monitor your blood pressure to avoid serious health risks.

So, in recognition of National Blood Pressure Month, lets chat and chew about ways you can help lower your risk for HBP. 

Preventing High Blood Pressure

According to WebMD, nearly 1 in every 4 American adults has high blood pressure.  Developing a heart-healthy lifestyle is a great way to maintain your blood pressure, but it is essential for any who has been diagnosed with HBP.  It helps reduce your risk of heart attack, heart disease, stroke and more. 

Below are some ways you can help prevent high blood pressure, or lower it if diagnosed.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. You are two to six times more likely to develop HBP is you’re overweight. (1) While losing weight and dieting are no easy task, shedding just ten pounds can help reduce your blood pressure—and the strain on your heart.  Check out the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure Risk Calculator to see whether losing weight may help lower your blood pressure.
  • Exercise regularly. People who are physically active are 20% to 50% less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who are not.  Take a walk or jog for 30 minutes before or after work – every little bit helps lower your risk!  For more, check out AHA’s recommendations and fitness guidelines.
  • Don’t be salty. Shaking the salt habit is important for lowering blood pressure or preventing HBP.  This doesn’t just mean cutting back on the table salt; it means packaged, processed foods too.  The AHA recommends consuming less than 1500 mg of sodium a day – use this sodium tracker to help keep track of your intake.
  • Put a cork in it. Limiting alcohol consumption can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of HBP.  The AHA’s recommends no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women. (2)
  • Stress Less. Did you get a chance to read April’s blog post on managing stress?  If not, check it out here.  Learning how to manage stress can prevent overeating, smoking, drinking alcohol and more, all of which lead to higher risks of heart attack, stroke and of course, high blood pressure.

Even if you take all the necessary precautions to prevent HBP, remember, it can easily sneak up on you.  You can easily monitor your blood pressure from home, but for anyone with HBP, you should also make regular visits to your physician.  If you’re interested in learning more, check out AHA’s High Blood Pressure Tools & Resource page.      

The Health Benefits of Strawberries

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There’s no denying that strawberries—whether frozen or fresh—are a tasty treat.  They are so popular, that Americans actually eat 3.4 pounds of fresh strawberries each year. (1) The best part about strawberries, besides their juicy and delicious taste, is their nutrition value.  They are packed with antioxidants, such as Vitamin C and can even help prevent wrinkles! 

So, in recognition of Strawberry Day, let’s chat and chew about the health benefits of strawberries.

They boost immunity.  As I mentioned above, strawberries are full of Vitamin C, which is not only a fast-working antioxidant, it is known to boost immunity as well.  Just one serving of strawberries contains 51.5 mg of Vitamin C—roughly half of your daily requirement, says Toronto-based registered dietitian Madeleine Edwards. (2)   

They keep your eyes healthy.  The antioxidants in strawberries can also help prevent cataracts (clouding over eye lens), which can ultimately lead to blindness.  Vitamin C protects our eyes from the sun’s harsh UV rays, as well as helps strengthen the eye’s cornea and retina. 

They help fight against cancer.  Vitamin C keeps the immune system healthy, which is the body’s best defense against disease like cancer.  Ellagic acid—a phytochemical found in strawberries—has been shown to “yield anti-cancer properties like suppressing cancer cell growth,” according to Edwards.              

They promote younger-looking skin.  Once again, Vitamin C proves powerful, because it is essential to the production of collagen—the key ingredient to your skin’s elasticity and resilience.  By eating foods rich in Vitamin C, you help replace the collagen you naturally lose as you age. 

They keep your heart healthy.  The Heart and Stroke Foundation reports that heart disease is one of the leading causes of death among women.  Luckily, strawberries contain powerful heart-healthy benefits!  The phytochemicals found in strawberries counteract the effect of low-density LDL (bad cholesterol in the blood), which can cause plaque build-up in arteries, according to Edwards.  Research shows that strawberries can also reduce oxidative damage and blood lipids—both of which play a key role in heart disease and diabetes.

They reduce inflammation.  Strawberries help reduce inflammation of the joints, which can lead to arthritis and heart disease.  A Harvard School of Public Health study concluded “women who eat 16 or more strawberries per week are 14 percent less likely to have elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP).” (3)

They regulate blood pressure.  Strawberries also have 134 mg of potassium per serving.  Potassium can help regulate blood pressure, or even lower it, by blocking the negative effects of sodium. 

The list above proves that strawberries are beneficial for any diet.  Also, to no surprise, strawberries have earned their title as one of the heart-healthiest fruits you can eat—they not only reduce LDL, inflammation, and high blood pressure, they help with digestion and aid in weight management. 

So, if you don’t already indulge in strawberry goodness, start today by trying one of these 20 Healthy Strawberry Recipes.  Already love this yummy red fruit?  Share some recipes of your own and help keep other readers heart healthy like you!