American Heart Health Month

February 1, 2013 10:16:42 AM PST
February is designated as American Heart Month by the American Heart Association.

It's designed to raise awareness to heart disease which is the number one cause of death in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 600,000 people die of heart disease in the US each year. The issue of heart disease is especially concerning for women.

    Statistics from the American Heart Association:
  • Heart disease is the number 1 killer of women.
  • Heart disease causes up to 1 in 3 women's deaths each year.
  • An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease.
  • Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease.

    Heart disease symptoms in women can be different from symptoms in men. The most common heart attack symptom in women is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But it's not always severe or even the most prominent symptom, particularly in women. Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:
  • Neck, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

It may be pretty daunting to try to overhaul your entire diet this February for American Heart Month. However, small changes can help get you on the right track- without sacrificing flavor, or causing you to spend a ton of money. The following list provides tips for easy exchanges that can help boost your heart health.

  • Regular canned soup for no sodium added/low-sodium brands
    Health tip: High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. Cutting back on salt can lower your blood pressure and help you protect your heart. Though convenient and often cost-effective, canned foods are often filled with salt. When grocery shopping, check the labels and seek out canned foods and soups that are low in sodium.
  • Pulp-free orange juice for orange juice with pulp
    Health tip: Oranges contain pectin that has been found to help protect your heart. However, the pectin is found in the pulp and pith of the orange- so choose orange juice with pulp when possible. Or, just eat your oranges!
  • Regular pasta for whole grain pasta
    Health tip: Whole grains have a host of health benefits; they have been linked to reductions in heart disease, stroke and diabetes risk. Switching to whole grain pasta can allow you to make some of your favorite pasta recipes- with added heart benefits.
  • Butter for olive, sesame or sunflower oil
    Health tip: To protect your heart, it's important to choose the right fats- and ditch the saturated and trans fats. If you're used to sautéing your foods in butter, switch to healthy oils, like olive oil. If you're worried about flavor, try sesame oil, which delivers on health and taste.
  • Canned fruit in syrup for canned fruit in juice
    Health tip: Fresh fruit is great for your health- we can't stress that enough- but it doesn't always deliver on convenience. If you do plan to reach for canned fruit, make sure that it's canned in 100 percent juice (rather than syrup).
  • Iceberg lettuce salads for Spinach or kale salads
    Health tip: Salads are a healthy bet when you're trying to protect your heart, but adding in spinach, kale or other dark leafy greens can really raise the heart health benefits. Kale is known as a heart superfood because of its antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.