Wed | Jun 20, 2018

Taking care of the heart of love

Published:Wednesday | February 20, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Charlyn Fargo, Contributor

Can you really improve your heart health? Even when it's not February (American Heart Health month), there are seven habits to try incorporating into your lifestyle that can improve your heart.

Back in 2010, the American Heart Association introduced 'Life's Simple Seven', seven steps people could take to reduce their risk of heart disease. A new study finds that the lifestyle changes actually work.

In an 11-year study, people who met three or four of the heart-health criteria had a 55 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular mortality than those who adhered to two or fewer.

In another study, the Aerobics Longitudinal Study, done by the University of South Carolina and published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 11,993 participants - age 46 at baseline - showed that the more factors a person met, the lower the risk of death from heart disease. For those who met five to seven of the criteria, risk was 63 percent lower than those meeting the fewest.

Here are the 'Simple Seven' lifestyle factors, courtesy of the American Heart Association:

1. Get active. Conduct at least 30 minutes of daily moderate physical activity, like brisk walking, five times a week.

2. Control cholesterol (found in animal foods) to lower than 200 mg/dL.

3. Eat better. Try to eat a variety of deeply coloured fruits and vegetables; unrefined fibre-rich whole-grain foods; eat fish at least twice a week; cut back on saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and added sugars; choose and prepare foods with little or no salt (less than 1500 mg of sodium per day).

4. Manage blood pressure lower than 120/80 mm Hg.

5. Lose weight to achieve a normal BMI (25).

6. Reduce blood sugar (fasting glucose below 100).

7. Stop smoking.

Vitamin A from milk

Q: Can a person get enough vitamin A from milk, fortified cereal and other sources without eating dark green and orange vegetables?

A: You could get all the vitamin A you need without vegetables at all. But carotenoid compounds - beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin - found in dark green and orange vegetables are important for more than making vitamin A in the body. These vegetables have antioxidant compounds that can protect our cells from highly reactive 'free radicals' that could damage cells and lead to cancer, heart disease and other health problems. In addition, dark green vegetables are a major source of folate, a B vitamin with many health-protective functions.

Dark green and orange vegetables are one part of what you need for good health: These and other vegetables and fruits provide nutrients Americans need more of, like potassium, a mineral that can help control blood pressure. They also supply a host of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are natural compounds found in plant foods that seem to block several steps in cancer development. Regardless of where else you get vitamin A, aim for at least five servings every day of a variety of vegetables and fruits, and then add more for additional health and weight-control benefits. Information is courtesy of the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Roasted Salmon

This recipe for Barbecued Roasted Salmon makes Cooking Light's Top 25 all-time best ever recipes. Try it to boost your Omega 3s and satisfy the American Heart Association recommendation to eat fish twice a week. The spice rub melts into a glaze in the oven. Serve it with mashed potatoes, rice, couscous, asparagus, or sugar snap peas.

Barbecued Roasted Salmon

1/4 cup pineapple juice

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets

2 tablespoons brown sugar

4 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons grated lemon rind

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cooking spray

Lemon wedges (optional)

Combine first three ingredients in a zip-top plastic bag; seal and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour, turning occasionally. Preheat oven to 400F. Remove fish from bag; discard marinade. Combine sugar and next five ingredients (through cinnamon); rub over fish. Place fish in an 11 x 7-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400ø for 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve with lemon slices, if desired.

Per serving: 314 calories, 35.3 g protein, 9 g carbohydrate, 14.7 g fat, 111 mg cholesterol, 1 g fibre, 405 mg sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian from Springfield, Illinois. For comments or questions, contact her at or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at