February is National Heart Month, so it's a great time to make a change for better heart health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with stroke coming in fifth, according to the American Heart Association. Both of these conditions result when blood flow is reduced or stopped altogether. But there are steps people can take to reduce the risk.
Increasing age, gender and heredity cannot be changed, but other risk factors can be. A person at risk for heart disease can reduce the risk by: avoiding smoking, being physically active every day, choosing good nutrition, reducing high cholesterol, lowering high blood pressure, aiming for a healthy weight, managing diabetes, reducing stress and limiting alcohol.
This laundry list of risk factors may seem overwhelming, but the good news is that they interact in a positive way. In fact, the American Heart Association boils it down to just three easy steps, the ABCs of heart health:
• A — Avoid smoking,
• B — Be physically active,
• C — Choose good nutrition.
These steps may not seem so easy, but by making small steps in the right direction it will be possible to live healthier and feel better. Choose a small change to make in each category. For example:
• As a stress break at work, try skipping a cigarette and going for a short walk instead. Even 10 minutes at a time of walking may have health benefits.
• Vow to skip French fries one day per week — make it fries-free Friday.
• Go dancing with a friend to increase physical activity, which will also help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, get diabetes under better control and move toward a healthier weight, plus you'll be having fun while you're at it!
• Investigate the calorie count of a favorite food and see if you can eat just one serving or find a healthier option that is just as tasty.
Challenge yourself to make two to three small changes, for your own sake and for those you care about. Or invite someone you care about who is at high risk for heart disease to join you in making those changes. Take one new small step toward better health each month and the benefits will accumulate, making the better choices add up quickly. Start today and enjoy a better, healthier tomorrow together.
The American Heart Association website, www.heart.org, has many ideas on how to make heart-healthy choices related to physical activity, stress management, weight management, quitting smoking, healthy kids (help them start early to form heart-healthy habits), workplace health and healthy eating (including a searchable recipe database and tips for healthy choices when dining out).
Try this heart healthy recipe for Thai Lettuce Cups and be kind to your heart!
THAI LETTUCE CUPS
To Make the Cilantro Sauce:
1 chopped small jalapeno (remove the ribs and seeds to control heat, if desired)
2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup fresh cilantro, including stems
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a blender, puree chopped jalapeno with lime juice, yogurt, cilantro, soy sauce, cumin and black pepper until very smooth. Cover and refrigerate until time to serve.
To Make the Lettuce Cups:
1 1/2 pound ground turkey or ground chicken
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small jalapeno, finely chopped (remove the ribs and seeds to control heat, if desired)
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger, or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup water or low-sodium chicken broth
2 scallions, green tops and white parts thinly sliced, roots removed and discarded
1 carrot, finely chopped
8 butter lettuce leaves
Heat canola oil in a large cast-iron or heavy-bottom skillet on medium-high heat. Add the onion, cumin, black pepper and cinnamon and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno and ginger, and cook for 1 minute.
Add the ground turkey or chicken and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until golden brown and crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the low-sodium soy sauce, lime juice and up to 1/4 cup water or chicken broth (if mixture seems dry), cook for 2 minutes.
Sprinkle with scallions and carrots, if desired. Spoon into butter lettuce leaves and serve with drizzle of the cilantro sauce.
• Each serving; About 250 calories, 6g fat (1.5g saturated), 43g protein, 285mg sodium, 5g carbs., 1g fiber.