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Here’s to your heart

How to keep your ticker in tip-top shape
By: Sena Christian, Granite Bay View
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This month marks Valentine’s Day, so what better time to resolve to keep the heart strong and protected — from cardiovascular disease.

Heart Disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. Someone in this country has a heart attack every 34 seconds and a death from a heart disease-related event occurs each minute, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 630,000 Americans died of heart disease in 2006, which is the most recent data available. Death rates differ depending on geographic regions, with the highest in Mississippi and lowest in Minnesota.

Some risk factors can’t be avoided, including advancing age, gender and heredity, but there are several more factors that people can control. These include altering lifestyle practices to promote healthy living, such as exercising on a regular basis and eating heart-healthy foods.

Local certified nutritional chef Sovy Medved takes pride in preparing healthy meals in her “Gourmet Hole-in-the-Wall” business, Pullman Kitchen and Catering. This 400-square-foot establishment is located in the Quarry Ponds shopping center in Granite Bay.

“Many folks enjoy eating healthy foods and they like fresh foods,” Medved said.

She offers gourmet and comfort dishes that often include organic produce, whole grains, tofu, wild-caught fish and low-calorie ingredients.

She adds spices with health benefits to her dishes, such as turmeric to her Thai yellow curry chicken. Turmeric has been shown to help ward off Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, and aid in weight management by boosting metabolism.

Doctors recommend that people consume heart-healthy foods, such as blueberries, salmon, soy protein, oatmeal, spinach, carrots, almonds, flaxseed, walnuts, sweet potatoes, asparagus and red bell peppers.

People should limit unhealthy fats and cholesterol, and choose low-fat protein sources such as beans, broccoli, fish and poultry. Consuming more fruits and vegetables, and reducing sodium intake are also suggested.

Another important habit: control portion size, which Medved helps customers do. Through her Cuisine for Fitness monthly meal service, she creates menus that meet the client’s caloric needs. Each meal contains a lean protein, a whole grain and fresh vegetables.

There is currently a waiting list for the service. Medved prepares all the meals herself — either breakfast, lunch and a snack, or dinner — for three days, which customers pick up twice weekly.

“It’s a one-person kitchen, so no matter what, it looks like I’m always busy,” Medved said. “I always find something to do.”

Sutter Roseville Medical Center Cardiologist Dr. Reetu Sharma says people should work with their doctors to control heart disease risk factors.

“You can reduce your risk of heart disease and a heart attack by seeing your doctor for regular checkups to evaluate risk factors,” Sharma said.

The doctor suggests people have their cholesterol checked at least every five years if it’s under 200 milligrams per deciliter and more frequently if it’s higher or borderline.

Blood pressure should be checked at least once a year if it’s normal, and on a regular basis if it’s high. People should know if there is a family history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

So why not spend Valentine’s Day vowing to take better care of your heart, for yourself and the ones you love.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com.

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How to control risk factors for heart disease:

1. Lower your cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the body’s cells. Lower it by exercising regularly and eating a diet low in saturated fat.

2. Lower your blood pressure. Your heart must work harder when your blood pressure is high. When this occurs for an extended time, the heart can enlarge and arteries can become scarred and hardened. Treat it with medication and changes in your diet and lifestyle.

3. Stop smoking cigarettes. Smoking promotes heart disease by quickening the development of atherosclerosis, reducing you HDL (good) cholesterol and raising your blood pressure.

4. Get in shape. Your risk of heart disease increases if you are overweight. Obesity raises cholesterol and blood pressure and can lead to diabetes, another risk factor for heart disease.

5. Limit your alcohol intake. Having one alcoholic beverage daily may reduce your risk of heart disease. Drinking more than this can raise blood pressure and triglyceride levels.

Source: Dr. Reetu Sharma, cardiologist, Sutter Roseville Medical Center

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Thai yellow curry chicken
Cook time: 8 minutes
Two servings

Ingredients:
½ cup light coconut milk
2 teaspoons yellow curry paste, Mae Ploy brand
1 teaspoon fish sauce
12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast halves-cut into thin strips
4 ounces sweet potatoes
¼ cup sliced Vidalia or other sweet onions
4 ounces asparagus, ends trimmed, cut on diagonal into 2-inch-long pieces
2 ounces French cut green beans
½ yellow bell pepper, seeded, sliced into strips

Directions
Combine coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, sweet potatoes and chicken. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Add asparagus for 1 minute. Add onions, green beans and bell pepper for 1 minute. Serve with brown rice, brown rice pasta or wheat bread.

Source: Sovy Medved, Pullman Kitchen and Catering