Fighting Heart Disease with Healthy Eating

Salmon with dill sauce, rice, and vegetables. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

February is National Heart Month, as proclaimed by the American Heart Association. The sedentary lifestyle many of us live increases the risk of developing heart disease. High blood pressure, obesity, and smoking also raise the risk. A recent report estimates that nearly half of all U.S. adults have some form of heart or blood vessel disease, a medical milestone that is mostly due to recent guidelines that expanded the number of people struggling with high blood pressure, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The American Heart Association said on January 31 that more than 121 million adults had cardiovascular disease in 2016. Taking out those with only high blood pressure leaves 24 million, or 9 percent of adults, who have other forms of disease such as heart failure or clogged arteries.

Measuring the burden of diseases shows areas that need to improve, the heart association’s chief science and medical officer, Dr. Mariell Jessup, said in a statement, AP reported.

High blood pressure, which had long been defined as a top reading of at least 140 or a bottom one of 90, dropped to 130 over 80 under guidelines adopted in 2017. It raises the risk for heart attacks, strokes, and many other problems, and only about half of those with the condition have it under control.

Being diagnosed with high blood pressure does not necessarily mean that medication is needed right away; the first step is aiming for a healthier lifestyle, even for those who are prescribed medicine. Poor diets, lack of exercise, and other bad habits cause 90 percent of high blood pressure.

The report is an annual statistics update by the American Heart Association, the National Institutes of Health, and others.

The report also noted that heart and blood vessel disease is linked to 1 of every 3 deaths in the United States and kills more Americans than all forms of cancer and respiratory diseases like pneumonia combined.

Certain groups have higher rates than others; 57 percent of black women and 60 percent of black males.

Coronary heart disease, or clogged or hardened arteries, caused 43 percent of cardiovascular deaths in the U.S., followed by stroke (17 percent), high blood pressure (10 percent), and heart failure (9 percent).

Salmon is a heart healthy choice. Photo:

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one cause of death, globally, killing more people annually than any other cause. As noted on the WHO website, “An estimated 17.7 million people died from CVDs in 2015, representing 31% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.4 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.7 million were due to stroke.”

Eating a healthier diet is one step towards reducing the risk of heart disease. A heart healthy choice for dinner is salmon, for example. Fish like salmon, mackerel, and anchovies are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which can reduce inflammation and therefore help lower the risk of dying from coronary heart disease.

Baked Salmon

1 pound salmon fillets, preferably wild-caught

5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh dill

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon Greek sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse salmon and pat dry with paper towels, place in a 2-inch deep baking dish and set aside. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour over the salmon. Bake for 25 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with a salad or the lightly cooked greens of your choice.