Heart to heart
February just naturally brings to mind hearts!
For many people the association is one of romance, from the first exchange of valentines in elementary school to a romantic dinner for two with fine food, wine and delicious chocolates. The color red is also prominent during the month with red and heart themed decorations adorning businesses and homes and beautiful bouquets of red roses. The American Heart Association (AHA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have expanded upon this theme by making February American Heart Month.
Unfortunately, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.
Heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions with coronary artery disease being the most common. This condition is caused by a buildup of cholesterol (plaque) in the blood vessels (arteries) that carry blood to the heart. The result is a narrowing of the artery making it difficult to get enough blood to the heart and causing a heart attack, or over time, heart failure. Symptoms may include chest pain or discomfort (angina), weakness, light headedness, nausea, cold sweats, pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, arms, and shoulder and/or shortness of breath.
It is important to note that symptoms may be different for men and women. The AHA and CDC websites provide a detailed listing of symptoms. If you think you or someone you know is having a heart attack, the first thing to do is call 911.
As with any type of disease there are risk factors that can put you in jeopardy. Research has identified three broad categories.
First are major risk factors we have no control over such as age, gender, and heredity, including race. Second are major risk factors that can be modified, treated, or controlled through medications or lifestyle. These include tobacco smoke, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and being overweight and diabetes. Finally, other contributing factors that increase risk include stress, alcohol and diet and nutrition.
The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of developing coronary artery disease.
When thinking about diet and nutrition, most people know they should be eating a healthier diet. Knowing we should do this is one thing but doing it can be a challenge.
Penn State Extension’s Heart Health Journey can help you make changes to eat and enjoy healthier foods. It is a step-by-step approach over a 12-week period that can put you on the path to a healthier life. This is a free, web-based program in which you receive a weekly email with tips on meal planning, keeping a food journal, reducing blood pressure and managing cholesterol. To register visit https://extension.psu.edu/heart-health-journey . This may be just what you need to make those changes for you, a loved one, or someone in your care.
Start by trying this Lentils, Butternut Squash and White Bean Soup recipe. It will hit the spot on a cold February day!
Lentils, Butternut Squash and White Bean Soup
Makes 4 servings
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 cups cubed butternut squash (fresh or frozen)
8 cups no salt added vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cups dry green lentils
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 (15 ounce) can unsalted white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley, or 2 Tablespoons dried
1. Wash hands with soap and water.
2. Gently rub vegetables under cold running water. Scrub firm produce with a clean vegetable brush under running water. Gently rinse parsley under cold running water. Dry well. Prepare as directed.
3. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes more.
4. Add the butternut squash and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the broth, lentils, black pepper, thyme, and bay leaves.
5. Let cook for about 25 minutes or until the lentils and squash are soft. Remove bay leaves.
6. Add the white beans and parsley, cook for 5 minutes.
Nutrition Facts: 450 calories per serving, total fat 6g, sodium 95 mg, total carbohydrate 82 mg, dietary fiber 20 g, protein 24 g.
Recipe source: https://oldwayspt.org/recipes/lentils-butternut-squash-and-white-bean-soup
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Sharon McDonald is a Penn State Extension Food Safety & Quality Educator and can be contacted by calling 814-865-6953 or by email at email@example.com.