Heart disease is a serious health problem in this country. Although this is a broad generalization, it appears men get more attention from their physicians regarding heart disease or signs/symptoms of heart disease than women. This needs to change. There is quite a bit of publicity given to gender specific diseases such as breast, ovarian, and cervical cancers. I am not saying these are not very real and very serious health threats to women. I am saying more attention must be given to heart disease in females by physicians, health organizations, and women themselves. Here are some facts regarding women and heart disease:
- One woman dies from heart disease every minute in the United States.
- Heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined yet only a small fraction of the National Institute of Health’s budget is spent on this deadly disease.
- Since 1984 more women in the US than men have died from heart disease.
- 42% of women die within one year of having a heart attack compared to 24% of men.
These statistics were obtained from an awesome website found at https://www.fighttheladykiller.org/the-killer-and-you/. You can find facts and figures on here regarding women and heart disease as well as personal stories. A great link to check out.
Women need to be diligent about discussing their risks for developing heart disease with their healthcare provider.
Your physician will be able to assess your risk for heart disease by assessing the following factors:
- Family/personal history of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease/stroke.
- Heart disease symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or fatigue OR any other symptom you are concerned about!
- Diet and exercise habits.
- Blood work including blood glucose and complete lipid panel.
- Physical exam including blood pressure, BMI and even waist circumference.
I want to emphasize that if you have a family history of heart disease, even if you eat right, exercise and believe you are in great shape, the need to get a baseline assessment of your heart health is vitally important and potentially life saving. This should be done as routinely as our yearly mammograms after 40 and a colonoscopy at 50!
Now to discuss some facts about our hearts that are truly amazing. Did you know that:
- The human heart beats 100,000 times a day (assuming an average heart rate of 72 beats per minute).
- The average heart weighs 11 ounces and pumps 2,000 gallons of blood through 60,000 miles of blood vessels each day.
- A kitchen faucet would have to be turned on all the way for 45 years to equal the amount of blood the heart pumps in an average lifetime.
- Every day your heart creates enough energy to drive a truck 20 miles!
Ok, I’m not sure how they come up with this stuff but point being the heart is an unbelievably strong and powerful organ.
“Give your body the right food and it will do the right thing” said by T. Colin Campbell, an American biochemist who specializes on the effect of nutrition on long-term health. I agree with this whole-heartedly. Study after study proves that putting good things in your body yields better health mentally and physically. Maintaining a healthy heart is no exception! The Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida touts six foods that promote longevity. I can assure you that a plant-based diet, less meat and more beans will promote a healthier heart. Make sure you incorporate these foods into your diet in any way, shape or form that you can. They include:
- Beans – an excellent protein source with tons of fiber
- Vegetables – loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber
- Fruits – also loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber
- Fish – high in omega-3 (protective against heart disease), possibly help reduce blood clotting, decrease inflammation, lower triglycerides (recommend two servings a week)
- Whole grains – high fiber and lots of vitamins and minerals and has a low glycemic index
- Potatoes! Yes, preferably sweet potatoes (orange and purple) – again, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber
Incorporate these foods into your diet and I promise in all likelihood you will see some of your lab values (glucose, overall and LDL cholesterol) improve! If I was a betting woman, I’d put money down that your blood pressure and weight will decrease as well.
Listed below is a recipe I tried recently that was very tasty. The main star of this dish is barley – a grain we don’t hear too much about these days. I love barley. It is high in fiber (6 grams per cup) while containing 4 grams of protein. Barley is also loaded with B-vitamins and is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. In these days of quinoa, farro, and other “newer” grains, don’t forget about good old barley!
Creamy Barley with Mushrooms and Spinach
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 pound mushrooms (cremini & button), chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic (or 1/2 tablespoon fresh)
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 5-ounce bag of baby spinach
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons flat-leafed parsley, minced or finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
- In a large sauce pan over medium heat, add onion, stirring until golden and translucent. Add the mushrooms.
- Add the barley and 3 cups of the broth to the sauce pan and bring to a boil. After boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until almost all the liquid is absorbed.
- Add 1/2 of the remaining broth, along with the tomatoes. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until the barley is tender.
- Add the spinach to the mixture and stir until it wilts. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Recipe courtesy of http://www.sheknows.com/recipes/creamy-barley-with-mushrooms–spinach.
My hope is you take away from this blog the importance of being proactive when it comes to taking care of your heart. Prevention is always my mantra. Call your doctor today and schedule a screening to assess your risk for heart disease. February is American Heart Month for a reason. Valentine’s Day is in February. This day is a celebration of love. I urge you to say “I love you” to yourself and to your body. Say it out loud and mean it. We take great care of the people and things that we love. Happy Valentine’s Day!