The Mediterranean Diet: A Heart-Healthy Lifestyle for the Entire Family

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 11:55 AM comments (0)

Med DietHeart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women. Genetics, tobacco use, family history, obesity, an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, stress and diet all contribute to this alarming statistic. And while some heart-healthy changes are easier to make than others, finding a balanced diet that appeals to the entire family, while also possibly lowering your risk for heart disease, might be easier and more enjoyable than you think.

Studies have shown that the rates of heart disease as well as certain types of cancer, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s were lower for those living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Researchers were able to determine that diet played a significant role in keeping the community healthy and living longer. The fundamental components of that diet are known as the Mediterranean diet.

Philip Krause, MD, Interventional Cardiologist at NorthShore, discusses what makes the Mediterranean diet so great for your heart:

Focuses on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. On a typical American plate, meat is the star. On a Mediterranean diet plate, meat plays second fiddle to fresh fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains. When the focus on the meal shifts toward fresh fruits and vegetables, the result is a diet rich in vitamins, antioxidants and fiber.

Puts the salt shaker away. Excessive salt consumption can raise your blood pressure, which may damage the arteries leading to your heart. And there’s no doubt about it: Americans consume too much salt. The Mediterranean diet diversifies the spice rack, favoring spices and herbs over salt.

Cuts down on red meat. Red meat is sidelined in favor of proteins that contain healthy fats like fish, poultry and nuts. Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can be very beneficial. 

Makes olive oil the main source of fat. Just say no to butter. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat and this type of fat may help bring high cholesterol levels in the right direction. It also may help regulate insulin levels in those suffering from type 2 diabetes.  

Allows for a glass of red wine. This is a great perk for the older adherents of the Mediterranean diet. When consumed in moderation (one four-ounce serving per day), red wine can be beneficial to your heart health by reducing LDL cholesterol levels and increasing HDL cholesterol levels. 

Limits portion sizes and cuts the carbs. Just because the Mediterranean diet is healthy doesn’t mean recommended foods can be consumed in unlimited quantities. Watch your portion sizes as you would with any diet or dish. If both weight loss and heart health are goals, limiting portion sizes along with carbohydrate intake—reducing the consumption of bread, potatoes, rice by 50%—can markedly assist in weight loss.

Share your heart-healthy Mediterranean diet recipes with us on Facebook. 

Heart Disease: Women vs. Men

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 1:10 PM comments (0)

man vs woman heart healthHeart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Each year, approximately 600,000 people will die of heart disease, nearly half of them women. And yet many still believe that heart disease is a man’s disease. It’s not.

There are some possible differences, however, between men and women when it comes to heart disease. Brian Shortal, MD, Cardiologist at NorthShore, discusses these differences and the heart disease risk factors that are the same for everyone:

Age. Men are considered at cardiovascular risk starting at 40. Women, on the other hand, are considered at cardiac risk starting at 50. That does not mean that women under the age of 50 have no risk for heart disease, so any symptoms should not be disregarded.  The incidence of heart disease between men and women equalizes around 65, and studies then show that women actually begin to surpass heart disease events in comparison to men. 

Symptoms. Typically, men exhibit more classic cardiac symptoms, including pain across the chest that radiates down the arms, back and jaw, and shortness of breath. Women might display more atypical symptoms like nausea, vomiting, dizziness and syncope (fainting/temporary loss of consciousness). In fact, the most common symptom in women over 80 is not chest pain but shortness of breath. 

Risk Factors. The risk factors are the same for both men and women. The major risk factors for coronary artery disease are hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, family history of heart disease, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. If you think you might be at risk, see your physician for more information. 

Do you know your risk for heart disease?

Living a Heart-Healthy Life

Friday, February 08, 2013 8:31 AM comments (0)

 

Heart-Health-blogLet’s put the heart back into February. Aside from Valentine’s Day, this month is a great time to give some heartfelt attention to our cardiovascular systems. Small changes can be made to your day-to-day routine to help keep your heart in shape.

Hani Salti, MD, shares the following advice for ensuring a healthy heart:

  • Maintain a healthy weight and exercise often. Physical activity not only has great benefits on our cardiovascular system—improvements can often be seen within a few weeks of beginning a routine—but it also can reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels. This in turn can help reduce your chances of developing heart disease.
  • Give up tobacco for good. Smoking takes a toll on your lungs, but it does the same for your body. Smokers have a much higher risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who don’t smoke.
  • Eat right and watch your portions. A smart, nutritious diet can greatly improve many body functions—and the heart is one of them. If you have a hard time watching your portions, try to eat slower. You may be surprised to learn you’re full before needing to reach for seconds.
  • Eliminate stress and focus on the positive. We live in a world where multi-tasking has become the new normal. Be sure to take time out of your busy day on a daily basis to unwind and relax.
  • Know your genes. If heart disease runs in your family, you may want to pay closer attention to ways to keep your heart healthy. You may also want to consult with your physician to see what other prevention and early detection measures you should employ to reduce your risk.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through their Million Hearts™ Initiative identifies the “ABCS” of improving cardiovascular care: Aspirin for those at risk; Blood pressure control; Cholesterol management; and Smoking cessation.

How do you keep your heart healthy?

 

A Recipe for a Healthy Heart

Friday, February 01, 2013 8:49 AM comments (0)

Healthy-HeartSo often when we are making meal choices, we don’t skip a beat to think about the health implications our decisions have on our body. Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is one way to stay healthy,  and being diligent about making smart choices day-after-day can also help you feel better (both physically and mentally). Along with these benefits, eating right can help reduce your risk of illness and disease.

February is Heart Awareness Month and a great time to focus on your cardiovascular health while still enjoying what you eat.

Kimberly Hammon, Registered Dietitian, gives some nutrition tips on eating right for your heart:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Half the battle with staying healthy is to make sure that you maintain a consistent weight. This can be achieved through diet and exercise.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Green, leafy vegetables are usually high in vitamins and nutrients. Adding a handful of spinach, broccoli or kale to a salad or stir-fry can bump up the nutritional value of a meal.
  • Add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Foods that are high in omega-3s include many nuts (such as almonds and walnuts) and salmon.
  • Become aware of what you are eating. Start by writing down everything that goes into your mouth.  We don’t always realize what we are putting into our bodies.  A lot of times we are eating more fat and sugar than we realize.
  • Change your cooking methods.  Bake, grill or broil your meals instead of frying.  Use non-stick sprays instead of oil.
  • Make small changes. These changes can include switching to mustard instead of mayonnaise on your sandwich or changing to low-fat salad dressing instead of regular.  Enjoy sandwich thins as a healthier bread substitute; they are high in fiber, and lower in calories and carbohydrates.

Kimberly shares one of her favorite, healthy recipes to get you on track for a healthy heart.

Easy Chicken Pot Pie:
6 servings
Cook time: 45 minutes
Ingredients:
1 2/3 cups   frozen mixed vegetables (thawed)
1 cup     cooked chicken (cut-up)
1 can     low-fat cream of chicken soup (10 ¾  oz )
1 cup     reduced-fat baking mix
½ cup    low-fat or skim milk
1          egg

Instructions:

  1. Wash hands and any cooking surfaces.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 400° F.  
  3. Mix vegetables, chicken and soup in ungreased, 9-inch pie plate.
  4. Stir remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl with fork until blended.  Pour over vegetables and chicken in pie plate.
  5. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown. 
  6. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.

1/6 of Pie:  180 calories, 3 grams of fat, 13 grams of protein, 420 mg sodium. 
Source:  Texas Cooperative Extension

What is your favorite healthy recipe? 

Guest Post: Wes Fisher, MD - Listen to your Heart

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 12:34 PM comments (0)

The middle aged man sat cheering his favorite football team.  Just after the game while sitting in front of his TV, he felt strange: lightheaded, sweaty, somewhat short of breath.  He tried to stand, but felt worse. So he sat and re-gained his composure.  He noted a slight bead of sweat on his brow and felt like he just couldn’t take a full breath in.   Other than that, he didn’t feel too bad at first.
Heart Health
So he waited a bit.  “Maybe going outside will help,” he thought.  He managed to walk outside and did feel a bit better for a while, but when he returned inside, he felt the same.  Slowly, nausea overcame him and he had to go to the bathroom and get sick.  Again after that, he felt improved but never felt back to normal.

He waited a bit more and called his wife.  He described to her what he was noticing as she googled his symptoms: some 399,478 search results appeared.  She read the list to him: heart trouble, stomach trouble, neurological trouble – the possibilities seemed endless.  Uncertain what to do, they finally decided to call their family doctor.

“Do you have any aspirin in the house?” he asked.

They scoured their cabinets.  “I can’t believe it!” she said. “No, we can’t find any.”

“Then why don’t you take him over to the Emergency Room right now to get checked out,” the doctor suggested. They thought about it a bit and because his symptoms had not resolved for over an hour and a half, they agreed.

Upon arrival to the emergency room, he was found to have a sustained heart rate of 206 beats per minute at rest – far outside the normal 50-100 beats per minute he should have had.    The process to determine the cause and treatment were started immediately and, gratefully, he left the hospital several days later with his treatment regimen in place.

So why should you care?

Because sometimes, despite all of the information available to all of us these days thanks to news agencies, public service announcements, smartphones, and instant search engines, heart disease can present in unpredictable, unimaginable ways.  When it does: denial is our worst enemy in providing effective treatment.

So if you’re not sure if your symptoms could be caused by your heart, don’t wait.  Get it checked out.  

More often than not, you’ll be glad you did.

-Wes Fisher, MD

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Have questions about heart disease? Join Dr. Brian Shortal, cardiologist for a live online chat on Thursday, February 23 from 12-1p.m. Submit your questions in advance.

Beat the Odds: Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Women’s (and Men’s) Heart Health

Thursday, February 02, 2012 8:32 AM comments (1)

Go Red for WomenDespite popular belief, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Women, in many cases, tend to get heart disease 10 years later than men.

While the symptoms of heart attack and heart disease can vary significantly between the two sexes, the recommendations for prevention do not. Mark Lampert, MD, Cardiologist at NorthShore, shares his insight on what lifestyle changes women (and men) should be mindful of to promote heart health:

  • Be physically active – regular exercise is better than doing nothing.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Be mindful of your intake of saturated fats and carbohydrates.
  • Don’t smoke! When it comes to heart disease, smoking is like adding fuel to the fire.
  • Get your other medical problems checked out and in order. Whether it’s high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma or something else, make sure you see your doctor.

Can you relate to the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women video? What ways are you ensuring your heart is healthy?

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