Do you suffer from a “broken” heart?

Now that Valentine’s Day is over, let’s set the love notes, the wilting red roses and chocolate kisses aside to focus on a more serious heart topic….

February is American Heart Month

As you may or may not know heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.  In doing some research, I have determined that every year 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease.  I don’t know about you, but I find those statistics staggering!  Look around you.  See three other people?  Hhhmmm… As I look, I can’t help but wonder, who will it be?  Yikes!

This got me thinking about my own heart health.  So, I looked up the major risk factors for heart disease to (try to) put my mind at ease.  According the NIH (National Institute of Health) these are the top 10:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes and prediabetes
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being physically inactive
  • Having a family history of early heart disease
  • Having a history of preeclampsia during pregnancy
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Age (55 or older for women)


So, how healthy is your heart?   Do any of the things on the above list look familiar to you?  If so, don’t despair!  There is some good news.   Almost all of the things on the list above are things that we can work to control.  We can take the initiative to make changes to things like our diet (*see attached recipe below) and the amount of exercise we get each day. 

Obviously, there are things on the list that are not in our control.  For instance, in my family there is a history of heart disease.  I have known for a while that because of this, I am at a higher risk for heart problems of my own.  But hey, I don’t smoke, I eat a (pretty) healthy diet and I stay active and exercise.  So, as I’m rationalizing with myself, I wonder…do I really need to worry? 

As I take a moment to ponder (and exchange my bag of Twizzlers for an orange) I’ve decided that with statistics like 1 in 4 deaths being caused by heart disease, I’d better create a better approach. The “if it isn’t broken, no need to fix it” approach is really not the way to go here. Take a look at how hard our hearts work! I don’t know about you, but I say this is a lot to just take for granted. Personally, I’m thinking that it will better serve me to take the “prepare for the worst, hope for the best” approach here. I know our lives are busy and that we tend to focus on our immediate needs, but when taking a proactive approach could save our lives…? I’m thinking that I/we really need to take a more serious, thoughtful and proactive approach to considering how we care for our heart all along the way, not just when it “breaks”.

I’ve decided that I am going to make an appointment with my doctor. I want to take steps to find out for sure how healthy my heart really is.  I don’t want to become a statistic.  What will you do?

Here is a yummy Heart Healthy recipe from nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.

INGREDIENTS

  • Water
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms, such as cremini, oyster, chanterelle and/or portobello, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup no-salt-added beef broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
  • 12 ounces whole-grain dried penne
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS

Boil a kettle of water.

Put the porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with about 1 cup of boiling water. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, then drain, reserving the liquid. Chop the rehydrated mushrooms.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then stir in the fresh mushrooms; cook for about 10 minutes or until they have released their moisture.