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Posts Tagged ‘heart health’

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. When people think about heart health, they often think about the impact of diet and exercise. However, a growing body of research has also established a connection with positive thinking, optimism, and happiness.

For example, do you tend to view the cup as half empty or half full? If you view the cup as half full, you are less likely to develop heart disease than if you view the cup as half empty. While negative emotions such as depression and anger are risk factors for heart disease, optimism and happiness seem to protect the heart.

In one study, people with the most negative emotions had the highest risk for heart disease while people who scored highest for happiness had the lowest risk. In another study, women with the highest levels of optimism had a 38% lower risk of death from heart disease than those with negative attitudes. In this study, optimism was defined as feeling hopeful and confident about the future.

Cheerful diverse people together in a park

How can the connection between positive psychology and heart health be explained? Three possible explanations are:

  1. Lifestyle: Happy people tend to sleep better, eat better, smoke less, and get more exercise; all behaviors that lower the risk of heart disease.
  2. Physiology: Happiness produces positive chemical changes and reduces stress hormones.
  3. Genetics: People who are predisposed to happiness may also be predisposed to have lower rates of heart disease.

If you tend to see the cup half empty, don’t despair! Research suggests that negative people feel happier when they:

  • Express gratitude on a regular basis.
  • Practice being optimistic.
  • Initiate random acts of kindness.
  • Engage in mindfulness activities.
  • Visualize their best self.
  • Savor joyful events.
  • Practice forgiveness.
  • Get outside.

Medical professionals advocate that you should devote 15 to 20 minutes a day doing something that brings you joy. What can you commit to doing every day to increase your happiness and take care of your heart at the same time? We would love to hear your ideas and plans.

If you still find yourself searching for happiness but not quite achieving it, you should reach out and talk to a health care professional. Together, you should consider environmental factors that could be impacting you, such as your diet, lack of sleep, or potential mental health side effects from medication.

To learn more about the importance of happiness and your health, join us for Happiness 101 on August 25, 2021 at 12noon. To register for this free, 30-minute Wellness Wednesday Webinar sponsored by Live Healthy Live Well, visit: go.osu.edu/WellnessWeds

Written by: Laura Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60@osu.edu.

Reviewed by: Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fayette County, brinkman.93@osu.edu.

References:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 8). Heart Disease Facts. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

Davidson, K. W., Mostofsky, E., & Whang, W. (2010). Don’t worry, be happy: positive affect and reduced 10-year incident coronary heart disease: the Canadian Nova Scotia Health Survey. European Heart Journal, 31(9), 1065–1070. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862179

Kim, E. S., Hagan, K. A., Grodstein, F., DeMeo, D. L., De Vivo, I., & Kubzansky, L. D. (2017). Optimism and Cause-Specific Mortality: A Prospective Cohort Study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 185(1), 21–29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5209589

Kraft, T. L., & Pressman, S. D. (2012). Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response. Psychological Science, 23(11), 1372–1378. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797612445312

Pitt, B. & Deldin, P.J. (2010). Depression and cardiovascular disease: have a happy day—just smile!, European Heart Journal, 31(9), 1036–1037. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehq031

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Last year, I transformed into a self-proclaimed bird nerd. The change started in the spring of 2020 when I started working from home because of COVID. I placed my desk next to a window and in April, I noticed a robin building a nest. Watching the robin sit on her nest for hours upon hours was fascinating and I was quickly hooked.

In May, bluebirds visited my suburban backyard for the first time and after putting up a bluebird house, we hosted the pair of bluebirds and their 3 adorable babies several weeks later. I was fascinated by the whole process, from the nesting, feeding, and successful fledging (developing wing feathers that are large enough for flight). I cheered the first day the babies flew out of their box and also experienced sadness when they left their house for good. My sorrow was quickly replaced with joy when a pair of Baltimore orioles passed through for a couple of days. I was enthralled watching the colorful birds eat the grape jelly I set out. Summer brought ruby-throated hummingbirds and warblers. This winter, I am enjoying a barred owl who lives nearby and occasionally graces me with his majestic presence.

Picture of a Barred Owl by Laura Stanton.
Barred Owl
Photo by Laura M. Stanton

Although the joy of birding happens right outside my window most days, whenever possible, I safely visit different habitats to expand the variety of birds to watch. Whether I am inside or outside, I notice so much more than just the birds. I notice positive changes happening within.

The benefits I have experienced from watching our feathered friends have been confirmed by research. Why is birding good for your health? Watching birds:

  • Promotes mindfulness. Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, in the moment, and without judgment. Whether you are birding inside or out, you are in the “here and now” which has been shown to decrease stress, anxiety, and rumination, and improve attention, memory, and focus. In addition, mindfulness can reduce chronic pain.
  • Requires stealth and silence. Spending time in silence lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow, and enhances sleep. Silence can also be therapeutic for depression.
  • Encourages meditation. During meditation, you eliminate the “noise” in your mind, creating a sense of calm and peace that benefits your emotional well-being and your overall health.
  • Relies on your sense of sight and hearing. A study found that just listening to bird song contributes to perceived attention restoration and stress recovery. Click here to listen to a sample of common bird songs.
  • Prevents nature-deficit disorder, a phenomenon related to the growing disconnect between humans and the natural world. Americans, on average, spend approximately 90% of their time indoors.
  • Benefits your heart. Regular exposure to nature is associated with improvements in cardiovascular disease and longevity.
  • Stimulates a sense of gratitude, which is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.

Sources
Carter, S. (2016). Nature deficit disorder. Live Smart Ohio. Retrieved from https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/mind-and-body/carter-413osu-edu/nature-deficit-disorder   

Louv, R. (2008). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Algonquin Books: Chapel Hill, NC.

Powers-Barker, P. (2016). Introduction to mindfulness. Ohioline. Retrieved from
https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243

Stanton, L. M. (2020). Barred Owl. JPEG file.

Stanton, L. M. (2020). Noises off: The benefits of silence. Live Smart Ohio. Retrieved from
https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/mind-and-body/stanton-60osu-edu/noises-off-the-benefit-of-silence

Written by Laura M. Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60.osu.edu

Reviewed by Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

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What do David Letterman, Burt Reynolds, Reggie Lewis, Barbara Walters, Bill Clinton, Hank Gathers, Toni Braxton, Kelsey Grammar, Dick Cheney, and Bret Michaels all have in common? All of them have or had some form of heart disease.

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States? Even if you do not have a personal or family history, it is likely that you will still be impacted in some way by heart disease during your lifetime. Whether it is a friend, a co-worker, a professional athlete, a celebrity, a neighbor, or a loved one, if you don’t already know someone who has been diagnosed, you likely will.  

Mittens holding a heart shaped scoop of fresh fallen snow

The Live Healthy Live Well Team invites you to get “Strong @ Heart” with us this February as we celebrate American Heart Month. You may be thinking, yeah, yeah, yeah, but I don’t want a bunch of medical jargon thrown at me. Great! The Strong @ Heart email challenge will give you some information about heart disease and some tips on how to help you stay healthy, but it will be relatable. You see, many of the writers have personal stories as to why this topic is so important to them.

We know that 2020 was a rollercoaster for most people, and 2021 might feel the same. During the Strong @ Heart challenge, we hope to connect with you on a more personal note about how heart disease has impacted and continues to impact the lives of many of us.

What can you expect? Two weekly e-mails will be sent directly to you from an OSU Extension Professional from February 1, 2021 – March 10, 2021. A few of the topics covered include: prevention, signs and symptoms, sleep, physical activity, dining out, good fats, mindfulness, hobbies and laughter.

Become Strong @ Heart with us! You can register by finding your county link below. If your county is not listed, please use the link for Ohio at the end.

Strong @ Heart photo with red, stitched heart
Ohio CountyRegistration Link
Belmontgo.osu.edu/LHLWBelmont
Brown, Clermont, Hamiltongo.osu.edu/LHLWCincinnati
Butlergo.osu.edu/LHLWButler
Carrollgo.osu.edu/LHLWCarroll
Champaigngo.osu.edu/LHLWChampaign
Clarkgo.osu.edu/LHLWClark
Coshoctongo.osu.edu/LHLWCoshocton
Cuyahogago.osu.edu/LHLWCuyahoga
Darke, Mercer, Preblego.osu.edu/LHLWWest
Fairfield, Hockinggo.osu.edu/LHLWFairfield
Fayettego.osu.edu/LHLWFayette
Franklingo.osu.edu/LHLWFranklin
Fulton, Williams, Defiance, Henry, Pauldinggo.osu.edu/LHLWArea1
Greenego.osu.edu/LHLWGreene
Hardingo.osu.edu/LHLWHardin
Holmesgo.osu.edu/LHLWHolmes
Licking, Knox, Muskingumgo.osu.edu/LHLWLicking
Lucasgo.osu.edu/LHLWLucas
Mahoninggo.osu.edu/LHLWMahoning
Meigsgo.osu.edu/LHLWMeigs
Miamigo.osu.edu/LHLWMiami   
Montgomerygo.osu.edu/LHLWMontgomery
Morrowgo.osu.edu/LHLWMorrow
Noblego.osu.edu/LHLWNoble
Perrygo.osu.edu/LHLWPerry
Pickawaygo.osu.edu/LHLWPickaway
Pikego.osu.edu/LHLWPike
Rossgo.osu.edu/LHLWRoss
Sandusky, Ottawago.osu.edu/LHLWSandusky
Trumbullhttps://go.osu.edu/lhlwtrumbull
Tuscarawasgo.osu.edu/LHLWTuscarawas
Vintongo.osu.edu/LHLWVinton
Washingtongo.osu.edu/LHLWWashington
Warrengo.osu.edu/LHLWWarren
Waynego.osu.edu/LHLWWayne
Woodgo.osu.edu/LHLWWood

Strong @ Heart Ohio link:  https://go.osu.edu/lhlwopen

Writers: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu and Patrice Powers-Barker, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Lucas County powers-barker.1@osu.edu

Reviewers: Michelle Treber, Lisa Barlage and Jenny Lobb, Extension Educators, Family and Consumer Sciences

References:

When It Comes to Heart Health, Americans Don’t Know Their Numbers. (2017). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved 01/22/2021 from https://newsroom.clevelandclinic.org/2017/02/01/comes-heart-health-americans-dont-know-numbers/

Scammahorn, R. (2021). What does it take to be strong @ heart? Live Healthy, Live Well, Ohio State University Extension. Retrieved 01/22/2021 from https://livehealthyosu.com/2021/01/18/what-does-it-take-to-be-strong-heart/

Heart Snow photo from Pixabay

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Husband and wife family picture

My brother-in-law was born with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). One of the possible indications of NF1 is heart deformations. Specifically, for him, it resulted in his ascending aorta and left ventricle being deformed at birth. Originally his family was told this should not be an issue until his 50’s. Like many young men in their 20’s who are in great health (non-smoker, no alcohol or drug use, and an avid bodybuilder) he felt fine, so he did not schedule his routine cardiovascular checkups.

At the age of 26 he began to experience chest pains because of inflammation of the chest cavity. His deformed valve had weakened, and he would need a heart transplant in 5 years if he did not address it immediately. His first open heart surgery took a team of surgeons 8 hours to rebuild his ascending aorta, left ventricle and to implant a St. Jude mechanical valve.

Father and Daughter family picture

Just two years later he would undergo a second open heart surgery, after he developed dull chest pains, severe back pains, and a lack of energy. Scar tissue had created a 98% blockage in his left anterior descending artery – commonly known as the widow maker

It has been 14 years since his last surgery. With the use of medications, he is feeling great. He must be diligent with his diet to make sure he is not eating foods high in vitamin K (when taking a blood thinner such as Warfarin, Vitamin K should be limited) and that he is watching his LDL cholesterol level.

Exercise is also an important part of his heart healthy lifestyle. He can no longer complete body builder style workouts, but he does make sure to do aerobic exercise to improve his circulation which helps to lower his blood pressure and heart rate, this along with strength training helps increase his HDL (good) cholesterol and lower his LDL (bad) cholesterol. His motivation is his wife and daughters. He must take care of his heart so that he will be there to walk his daughters down the aisle and to be by his wife’s side as they grow older together.

His advice:

  • See your doctor regularly. Your routine appointments are important to maintain your heart health.
  • Take your medications as prescribed.
  • Inform your doctor of any changes, including your diet. Certain foods can impact the effectiveness of some medications, so they may not be working as prescribed.
  • Exercise. Aerobic exercise is a great way to work out your heart muscle.

Just as my brother-in-law is Strong @ Heart, I invite you join me as we introduce you to others who are Strong @ Heart during American Heart Month! We will explore what Strong @ Heart means in a fun, interactive, and lighthearted ways.

Sign up for the Ohio State University Extension’s award winning, Live Healthy Live Well 6-week email wellness challenge. I will send you two weekly emails from February 1 – March 15, 2021.

What is the cost? It is FREE!!

Who can participate? Any adult with an email account.

How do I sign up? You can register with this link: go.osu.edu/LHLWWest

Be Healthy, Be Well, and Be Strong @ Heart!

Written by: Roseanne Scammahorn, Ph.D., Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Darke County, scammahorn.5@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

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Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the United States (about 1 in 4 deaths). In this blog we have shared how dietary choices, including adding more plant foods reduces the risk of heart disease. Increasing physical activity is another important way to strengthen our hearts and bodies. Researchers are always learning more about heart health and ways to reduce the risk of disease. Here are some recent updates and recommendations.

Add some steps.  A 2020 study supports the evidence that increasing your daily step count reduces the risk of mortality of all causes. That’s right, all causes. The intensity of these steps did not have a significant difference on the overall reduction of risk. The takeaway? Make it a goal to take 8,000 steps each day, for your heart and your overall health. Movement does not have to make you sweat buckets to have a positive, long-term impact on health.

Schedule your flu shot. Did you know getting a flu shot can help to protect your heart? It is true! The flu can cause stress or damage to our heart and other organs. In a study of over 80,000 U.S. patients hospitalized with the flu, more than 1 in 10 had an acute cardiac event before discharge. An acute cardiac event could be acute heart failure, a heart attack, or a hypertensive crisis. Almost a third of those patients then required intensive care.

Image of a blooming tea flower in a clear mug on a wooden table.

Make time for tea. Studies have shown that adding tea to a heart-healthy diet can have many benefits. Some benefits may include:

  • improved brain function
  • protection against some cancers
  • better weight maintenance
  • increased HDL or “good” cholesterol
  • decreased LDL or “bad” cholesterol
  • better smelling breath

Adding sweeteners like sugar and honey can counteract the benefits that come from drinking tea. Tea contains tannins and drinking too much can lead to poor iron absorption. Tea also contains caffeine, which can cause anxiety or trouble sleeping. Most healthy individuals can safely consume 3-4 cups of tea each day. Check with a healthcare professional before starting a new diet or exercise routine.

When taking care of our heart, small changes can make a big difference. Check back to this blog often for new research findings. If you are interested in learning more about heart health join our Strong @ Heart email challenge that starts February 1! Sign up here: go.osu.edu/LHLWopen


Written by: Courtney Woelfl, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Cuyahoga County, woelfl.1@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Shannon Carter, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

References: https://www.heart.org/en/around-the-aha/aha-names-top-heart-disease-and-stroke-research-advances-of-2020

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May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Did you know that every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a stroke?

Every stroke and TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack, aka “mini-stroke”) is a medical emergency. If you know the warning signs of a stroke and act FAST, you could save a life. FAST is the acronym for noticing the major warning signs of a stroke and taking action:

Face Drooping – one side of the face is drooping or numb. Ask the person to smile and look for this sign.

Arm Weakness – The arm is weak or numb. Ask the person to raise both arms to the side. One arm may drift down.

Speech Difficulty – The speech may be slurred or difficult to understand. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase, such as “the sky is blue”.

Time to call 9-1-1 if any of these signs are present.

Learn the signs of stroke. Face. Arms. Speech. Time to call 9-1-1. cdc.gov/stroke

More than 40% of Americans cannot recall the major warning signs of a stroke. If you are one of them, now is the time to commit them to memory! Recognizing these signs could save a life because every moment counts when someone is having a stroke. Unfortunately, emergency rooms across the country are reporting declines in the number of non-coronavirus patients they are seeing, and doctors are worried that coronavirus fears are keeping patients from calling 9-1-1 when they need help. A stroke is not something to “tough out” at home. Recognize a stroke for what it is – a medical emergency – and encourage friends, family members and love ones to seek help when needed.

To prevent strokes from happening in the first place, make healthy lifestyle choices – like eating nutritious food and getting enough physical activity– and encourage friends, family members and loved ones to do the same. The CDC estimates that up to 80% of strokes are preventable. If you have suffered a stroke, making healthy lifestyle changes is still worth the effort, as they can help prevent future potentially more serious strokes from taking place.

A healthier you starts with change. Change starts with you. What changes will you make to become a healthier you? Take action today to avoid falling victim to a stroke, and commit the FAST acronym to memory to help save the lives of others.

Written by: Loretta Sweeney, Senior Series Program Assistant, OSU Extension Franklin County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

SOURCES:

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Man looking at butter and margarine

Happy February! As you may know, February is National Heart Month… the perfect time to think about making heart healthy choices. For heart health, what would you choose? Butter vs margarine? Beef vs chicken?

Heart healthy eating includes choosing food with less saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated is a word that refers to the chemical structure of some fat where molecules stack on top of each other and are rigid. As such, saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature and are found mostly in animal products. The fat in most red meat is more saturated than the fat in chicken, turkey, and fish. Buying leaner cuts of meat and removing the skin from poultry can help reduce fat content. Eating less cheese is another way to cut back. Experts suggest eating no more than 22 g of saturated fat per day for a 2,000 diet, and that can add up quickly! For example, 1 oz of cheese (equivalent to 4 dice or 1 small slice) has about 5-6 grams! Products with more than 20% of the RDA for saturated fat per serving, as listed on the nutrition facts panel, are high sources.

Trans-fats or trans fatty acids are formed when vegetable oils are made into margarine or shortening. Trans-fats are found in foods made with “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “vegetable shortening.” Baked goods such as cookies, donuts, pie crusts, and pastries often will have small amounts of trans-fats. Too much trans-fat in the diet will raise bad blood cholesterol levels and lower good. Read labels to check for trans fats, but beware that food manufacturers can indicate that there are 0 grams of trans-fat if their product has less than .5 grams per serving. A better indication of whether trans-fats are present in a product is to look for the term “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredient list.

In contrast to saturated fats and trans-fats, unsaturated fats are generally liquid at room temperature and come from plant-based sources. When used in moderation and in place of saturated fats and trans-fats, unsaturated fats such as those contained in liquid oils can help improve blood cholesterol. Use liquid oils as much as possible when baking, frying, spreading. Canola, peanut, safflower, and olive oils are excellent choices.

So butter vs margarine? Butter will contain saturated fat and hard margarines have the issue of containing trans-fats. Soft or whipped margarines are a good choice but are best as a bread spread and not always appropriate for baking. Whatever you choose, all fats have the same amount of calories (9 cal/ gram) so go easy.

Author: Dan Remley, PhD, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, MPH, RD, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Sources:

The Cleveland Clinic (2014). Fat: What you need to know. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11208-fat-what-you-need-to-know

The American Heart Association (2017). The Skinny on Fats. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/prevention-and-treatment-of-high-cholesterol-hyperlipidemia/the-skinny-on-fats

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Food, specifically plant food, can be used as medicine to help reduce or lower your risk for certain diseases. One is heart disease. Two of the risk factors for heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, can be influenced by your food choices. If you are currently trying to lower one or both of those without having to resort to medication, you might want to try eating more plant foods.

Plant foods contain two different kinds of fiber. To lower your cholesterol, you need to consume more of the type we call soluble fiber. Soluble fiber combines with liquid in your stomach to make a gelatinous mixture that helps trap waxy particles of cholesterol. The mixture then proceeds through the digestive tract and leaves your body when you have a bowel movement. The most well-known source of soluble fiber is oats. Five to 10 grams of soluble fiber a day decreases your LDL cholesterol.

Other good sources of soluble fiber include dried beans and peas, nuts, barley, apples, pears, carrots and brussels sprouts. One excellent (but non-food) source of soluble fiber is psyllium, which is a plant used to make products that relieve constipation. One spoonful mixed in and cooked with your oatmeal everyday will do wonders for your cholesterol levels.

When it comes to lowering blood pressure, the first and most well-known food change you can make is to reduce the amount of sodium you eat. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain low amounts of sodium, which is a start in the right direction. But they also contain large amounts of potassium, a mineral that helps negate the bad effects of sodium. 

You should also try to consume 3500-4700 milligrams of potassium every day to help lower your blood pressure. However, taking potassium supplements is generally not recommended for people with high blood pressure.  A variety of potassium-rich foods should be eaten daily. The most well-known one, but actually not the best, is a banana.  Other good sources include potatoes (sweet and white), melon, peaches, raisins, tomatoes, pumpkin, and pears.

Many of the plant foods listed above are native to Ohio. Even though our availability of fresh, local produce is severely limited right now, start thinking about this spring. It is never too early to start planning for a garden. Growing at least part of your produce (even if it is just tomatoes and peppers) will give you superb tasting food that will help you maintain a healthy heart.

Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Sources:

Brinkman, P. (2017). Potassium. Ohio Line. https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5588

Harvard Health Letter (2019). Should I take a potassium supplement?https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/should-i-take-a-potassium-supplement

Mayo Clinic (2018). Cholesterol: Top foods to improve your numbers. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/cholesterol/art-20045192

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two hands with mittens holding a heart-shaped snowball
What comes to mind when you think of February? For many, it’s Valentine’s Day, others may think of a dreaded month of winter weather. Some may know February as Black History Month. Still others, like me, may think of American Heart Month. While all of these are accurate, one is nearer and dearer to my heart, pun intended.

You see, at the end of my junior year of high school, my dad had his first heart-related incident two days after his 37th birthday. He had to have angioplasty for a blocked artery. A month or so later, my dad’s brother John had to have open-heart surgery ON his birthday. My dad had already lost his oldest brother to a massive heart attack. Uncle Bill was in his forties when he collapsed after coming home from work. My dad’s brother Jim had suffered a heart attack and had a couple of heart procedure in subsequent years as well. My dad had another angioplasty when I was a freshman in college.

My dad attended cardiac rehabilitation after both of his angioplasties. The first time, I attended some of his sessions since I was out of school for the summer. While attending Ohio University, I learned about a program that would enable me to work in cardiac rehab. I never realized this was something I would be able to do without becoming a physician. I completed the program and was fortunate to find a position right away working for a cardiologist who had cardiac rehab as part of his practice. I worked there for 5 years before taking a position in a hospital cardiac and pulmonary rehab facility.

My dad had his first open-heart surgery shortly after he turned 44. Yes, you read that right. My dad’s oldest living brother Bob, had open heart surgery a couple months later the same year. My dad had his second open-heart surgery 2 days prior to his 57th birthday, which he celebrated in the hospital. A month or so prior to this, my uncle by marriage had to have a stent. He attended cardiac rehab at the hospital where I was working. When my dad had his second open-heart surgery, he started cardiac rehab 2 weeks after his surgery because he was recovering so well and my uncle was able to drive him. This was an interesting experience for me. The person who had always taken care of me, was now in my care. It was also a relief because I knew he was getting the best of care.

My dad will turn 67 at the end of May. I am happy to say that he is doing fairly well. He finally quit smoking once and for all. Yes, he quit each time he had a heart event, but he eventually started back. He takes his medications as directed. Stress is really not an issue for him. He could stand to be more active and eat a little better, both of which would help his weight. Overall, everything considered, he is fortunate. I am also happy to report that I turned 46 in August and I have no signs or symptoms of any heart-related conditions.

As you may have figured out, heart disease is very near and dear to me. I obviously learned at a young age that I have a strong family history. So, I have taken steps to try to help reduce my risk for developing heart disease. While we hear about all sorts of other diseases and conditions, heart disease has been and still remains the number one killer of men AND women in the United States. So, if you have not been taking the best care of your heart, it’s not too late to start. What better month than February to begin?!

10 Things You May Not Know About Heart Disease [Infographic]

Written by: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County, jones.5640@osu.edu

Photos:

https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/heart-facts-infographic

https://pixabay.com/en/heart-snowball-gloves-winter-hands-1416344/

Sources:

American Heart Association, (2019). Found at: https://www.heart.org/

American Heart Association, (2019). Cardiovascular disease affects nearly half of American adults, statistics show. Found at: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/01/31/cardiovascular-diseases-affect-nearly-half-of-american-adults-statistics-show

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2015). Preventing Heart Disease: Healthy Living Habits. Found at: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/healthy_living.htm

CNN Staff, (2019).  Meet the man who created Black History Month. Retrieved from: https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/01/us/history-of-black-history-month-trnd/index.html

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, (2013). Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Changes. Retrieved from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-healthy-lifestyle-changes

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Learn more about heart disease. Retrieved from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/education-and-awareness/heart-month/learn-more-about-heart-disease

Office of Women’s Health, (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.womenshealth.gov/heart-disease-and-stroke

 

 

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Adopting our dog, Wes, was one of the best things my husband and I could have done, both for us and for him. We saved Wes’ life, and he has made ours better and healthier. Research has shown that owning a dog can benefit the owner’s health. Wes is an Australian cattle dog, and he needs a lot of activity. As with most dogs, a daily walk is a must. This extra incentive to get walking every day can have a positive impact on your heart health. Your furry buddy will thank you for making the extra time and effort for him or her as well!

WesOwning and caring for a dog can also have beneficial effects on your mental health by gaining a sense of meaning and companionship from your dog. The bond you can build with your dog is such a special one. I remember when we first brought Wes home, he was very timid and shy. As a result, he was not much for being pet or cuddling with his new parents. We all took our time, and he came to trust us. He is now the most loyal pet either myself or my husband have ever known. He loves to be spoiled, and he cuddles up with us on the couch or in bed regularly now. Blood pressure measurements have been shown to decrease while petting a dog, which can be a nice stress reliever. There’s nothing better than coming home to a furry “smile” and a quickly wagging tail at the door at the end of a long day.

If you can afford to care for one, I highly recommend rescuing your next best friend. There are many sweet and loyal dogs in shelters all across the state just waiting to be adopted into a loving “fur-ever” home. They can help you develop some healthy habits along the way, and you will gain an unconditionally loving best buddy!

Written By: Amy Meehan, MPH, Healthy People Program Specialist

Reviewed By: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension, Perry County

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3351901/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/having-a-dog-can-help-your-heart–literally

https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits/index.html

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/a-dog-could-be-your-hearts-best-friend-201305226291

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