February 17, 2020

February is often associated with love. Love comes from the heart, and that also translates to dedicating this month of the year to your heart health.

Heart health is a very serious subject for me and my family and should be for yours as well. Even if you eat a balanced diet and exercise, family history and other factors contribute to heart health. In fact, on February 7, 2017, I found that out through my own personal experience.

No, I didn’t have a heart attack, but I didn’t feel totally myself. So, I went to the doctor and they ran some tests. While everything looked “OK” there was something that the doctor felt was just not right. He checked me into the hospital much to my chagrin, especially since it was the Friday before Super Bowl and my wife and I had plans. After all, there couldn’t be anything wrong with me! I was 50 years young, I was eating healthy, and I was exercising.

The next day I found myself undergoing a heart catheterization where they found three blocked arteries—one at 100%, the second at 96%, and the third at 91%. The following morning, I was on the operating table having triple bypass surgery to save my life. The good news was that eating a healthy diet helped my body to grow its own bypasses around the clogged arteries. But my heart was still only functioning at 60%. The bad news was finding out I have a deep family history of heart disease that contributed to my condition.

So, here we are in national Heart Health Month which is dedicated to raising awareness about heart disease. I urge each and every one of you to go get checked out. Make sure your heart is working properly so you can look forward to a long and healthy life with your family.

If you eat a healthy diet, continue to do so. If you are trying to figure out how to eat healthier, here are few tips:

  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other high-fiber foods.
  • Choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
  • Limit salt (sodium).
  • Stay at a healthy weight by balancing the calories you eat with your physical activity.
  • Eat at least two servings of fish each week. Oily fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, are best.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat.
  • Go for non-fat and low-fat dairy products (you can also try plant-based milk).
  • Limit drinks and foods with added sugar.

At first, it may seem like there is a lot to learn, but you don’t have to make these changes all at once. Start with small steps. For example, try using our Heart-Healthy Blueberry Muffin recipe next time you’re craving a snack. They’re high in antioxidants, healthy fats, and fiber—the perfect combination for a heart-healthy diet! Over time, making these small changes can add up to a big difference in your heart and overall health.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to eat heart-healthy foods that are full of flavor! Love yourself, love your family, and love your heart.

By: Chef Gary Appelsies, MS
Director of Healthy Eating

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