Love your heart this Valentine’s Day

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But this Valentine’s Day, many Americans are thinking about their hearts in a far more serious way. They’re learning that a healthful low-fat diet, a regular exercise program, and finding ways to deal with life’s stresses boost heart health.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Death from heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases claims one American life every 34 seconds.

Like any other muscle in the body, the heart requires preventive care if it is to continue to operate at top form. While some people are afflicted with congenital heart disease, most people who are affected can point to the way they live as a contributor to their problems.

Fortunately, with lifestyle changes, many of these contributing factors can be lessened or eliminated entirely.

Smoking: The risk of heart disease for smokers is more than twice that of non-smokers. Smokers who quit now will greatly reduce their risk of heart disease and heart attack.

High Fat/High Cholesterol Diet: There are many wonderful food products available today that are free of cholesterol and saturated fat. In 2001, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that foods containing at least 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving that are also “low fat,” can claim to be “heart healthy” on their products’ labels, because these foods play a part in reducing the risk of heart disease.

High Blood Pressure: A healthy diet (low in saturated fat and cholesterol, high in grains, fruits and vegetables (a plant based diet) will help reduce high blood pressure. Losing weight, exercising regularly, restricting sodium, and using medication might also help lower blood pressure to a healthy level.

Family history of coronary artery disease: Make sure that you and your Valentine are aware of your individual medical histories, and that you consult a health care provider for a complete physical.

Diabetes: The incidence of type 2 diabetes is nearing epidemic proportions in the United States. Many people who are overweight or obese are at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Lack of exercise: In 1996 the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health advised Americans to get at least a half-hour of vigorous exercise each day. In 2002, the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine recommended doubling the amount of physical activity from 30 minutes to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each day. Take your Valentine for a long walk; you’ll be doing both of you good.

Obesity: An estimated 120 million adults in the United States are overweight or obese. Weight control can be accomplished by various methods including changing your diet to include more “heart healthy” ingredients like those made without saturated fat and cholesterol.

Stress: Exercise is a wonderful stress reliever, but there are plenty of other ways to stop life’s pressures from reaching the boiling point. Some include keeping a journal, meditating regularly, reading novels that “take you away,” spending time with friends and family and trying your hand at healthy all natural recipes, like those below. Your heart, and your Valentine, will be grateful. Enjoy!

Should you want a hot and spicy Valentine’s Day, try this delicious Gazpacho soup — it’s red, the color of passion!

Gazpacho Your Heart

1 small onion, sliced

2 large garlic cloves

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 large fresh tomato diced

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 quart creamy tomato soup

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon red Tabasco sauce

2 teaspoons green Tabasco sauce

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Puree first 4 ingredients in processor or blender and set aside. Combine fresh tomato, 1/2 of the cucumber and 1/2 of the green pepper in small bowl; set aside.

Add soup cilantro, tomato paste and remaining cucumber and green pepper to processor. Blend until chunky puree forms.

Add the red and green Tabasco sauces, salt and pepper.

Move gazpacho to large serving bowl and mix in reserved vegetables. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled before serving.

Serve with a rib of celery and a sprinkle of cilantro for garnish.

Tofu Cheesecake

Should you want your Valentine’s Day to be velvety smooth, serve up this “cheesecake” topped with fresh fruit (consider fresh strawberries in keeping with the Valentine’s Day “red” theme).

1 nine-inch baked crumb crust

2 tablespoons agar flakes (Agar flakes, which are made from seaweed, are used as a thickener. Look for them in natural food stores or Asian markets.)

2/3 cup soy milk

1/2 cup turbinado sugar, Sucanat or other sweetener

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pound firm tofu

4 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

2 teaspoons vanilla

Fresh fruit for topping (strawberries, kiwi fruit, etc.)

Combine the agar and soy milk in a saucepan and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in the sugar and salt. Simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.

Pour into a blender and add the tofu, lemon juice, lemon peel, and vanilla. Blend until very smooth.

Spread evenly into a prepared crust. Refrigerate 30 minutes, and then top with fresh fruit. Chill thoroughly before serving.

Per serving: 192 calories; 8 g protein; 36 g carbohydrate; 2 g fat; 247 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol

- Courtesy of ARA Content

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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