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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Love your heart in the name of love!

Every February 14, across the United States and in other places around the world, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of Valentine's Day.  The history of Valentine's Day is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine's Day contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. Stories suggest that Valentine helped Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first "valentine" greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl who visited him during his confinement signed "From your Valentine" (an expression that is still in use today). Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and--most importantly--romantic figure.
On Valentine's Day, men and women around the world celebrate those closest to them with extravagant gifts commonly adorned with or designed in the form of traditional hearts. But how did this shape, ostensibly modeled after the internal organ, emerge as the universal symbol for the emotion of love? It was around the Middle Ages that the heart symbol took on its current meaning. At that time it was meant to represent Jesus Christ and his love. Devout Christians began to inject the icon into art and literature from that era. When Valentine's Day originated in England in the 1600s, the heart symbol was the obvious choice for symbol to reflect the new holiday.

This month our blog will honor the heart and how to return the love to your heart that it gives you every day!

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States today.  To help prevent heart disease you can:
-Eat healthy
-Quit smoking/avoid second hand smoke
-Control your cholesterol
-Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation
-Take steps to prevent type 2 diabetes
-Manage Stress

Eating healthy always seems to be first on every list of what to do to improve your health in general, but how do we eat to make our heart healthy? Although you might know that eating certain foods can increase your heart disease risk, it's often tough to change your eating habits. Once you know which foods to eat more of and which foods to limit, you'll be on your way toward a heart-healthy diet.

Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals, also low in calories and rich in dietary fiber. Vegetables and fruits contain substances found in plants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Eating more fruits and vegetables may help you eat less high-fat foods, such as meat, cheese and snack foods.  Fresh or frozen fruits and veggies are recommended as well as low sodium canned veggies and canned fruit packed in juice or water.  Avoid coconut, veggies that are fried, breaded or in cream sauce, and fruit that is canned in heavy syrup or frozen with sugar added.

Whole grains are good sources of fiber and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. You can increase the amount of whole grains in a heart-healthy diet by making simple substitutions for refined grain products. Or be adventuresome and try a new whole grain, such as whole-grain couscous, quinoa or barley. But, just like the fruits and vegetables discussed above, there are good and bad sources with whole grain too.  Remember that white, refined flour and white bread are bad while whole wheat flour and bread (or whole grain bread) are good.  Cereal high in fiber is good while muffins, frozen waffles, doughnuts, biscuits, and granola bars are bad for you.  You should probably ask your doctor about what diet would be best for you. 

Everyone should limit unhealthy fats and cholesterol as an important step to reduce your blood cholesterol and lower your risk of coronary artery disease. A high blood cholesterol level can lead to a buildup of plaques in your arteries called atherosclerosis which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. The American Heart Association offers these guidelines for how much fat and cholesterol to include in a heart-healthy diet:

-Saturated fat: Less than 7% of your total daily calories, or less than 14 g of saturated fat if you follow a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet

-Trans fat: Less than 1% of your total daily calories, or less than 2 g of trans fat if you follow a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet

-Cholesterol: Less than 300 mg a day for healthy adults; less than 200 mg a day for adults with high levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol or those who are taking cholesterol-lowering medication

The best way to reduce saturated and trans fats in your diet is to limit the amount of solid fats — butter, margarine and shortening — you add to food when cooking and serving. You can also reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet by trimming fat off your meat or choosing lean meats with less than 10 percent fat. You can also use low-fat substitutions when possible for a heart-healthy diet. When you do use fats, choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats, found in nuts and seeds, also are good choices for a heart-healthy diet. When used in place of saturated fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may help lower your total blood cholesterol. But moderation is essential. All types of fat are high in calories.  Per The American Heart Association, here are the fats to choose: Olive oil, Canola Oil, Margarine free of trans fat.  And fats to limit are: Butter, Lard, Bacon Fat, Gravy, Cream Sauce, Non-dairy creamer, Hydrogenated margarine & shortening, Cocoa Butter, Coconut, palm, cottonseed and pal-kernel oils.  

Keep watching our blog because we LOVE you and we want you to be our Valentines!

All month long we are going to highlight ways to keep a healthy heart for yourself and the ones you love! Follow us on facebook for posts about healthy heart tips too; 

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Thanks to Susan Monti for her words of wisdom!

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