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Heart Healthy

Preventing Heart Disease in the 509 By Mandy Braviroff

Photo courtesy of Mandy Braviroff Photography

February isn't just about Valentine’s cards, flowers and love poems, it's also about surprise blizzards and shoveling snow. But more importantly, and in more seriousness, February marks American Heart Month. In 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson started American Heart Month to bring awareness to all Americans on heart disease and their own health.

The American Heart Association, which also brings awareness to heart disease year-round, is a nonprofit organization that funds medical research on cardiovascular issues and offers education to Americans on living healthy lifestyles. Heart disease describes an array of conditions that affect your heart and is the leading cause of death for women and men alike. Early detection of heart disease is important, which is one reason why yearly checkups with your physician are recommended.

Knowing the symptoms of heart disease and when something is wrong can be tricky, as it can sometimes mask itself as other issues or have no symptoms at all. Some symptoms range from chest pain to heart palpitations and even shortness of breath. For more symptoms or to find out more regarding early detection on heart disease, you should consult your physician or visit Heart.org.

Struggling with heart issues right here in the Northwest? Spokane is home to Sacred Heart Medical Center and was named one of Washington state's top three hospitals in 2018. Sacred Heart has one of the Northwest's best team of doctors and nurses who are rated for their top-quality care in heart health. Don't like doctors or hospitals or the idea of having heart disease? Here are some ways to be heart healthy.

First, if you're a smoker, quit. I personally know how hard it can be, but heart disease is one of the major side effects of smoking, and it’s bad for your whole body in general. Plus, there are a variety of ways that can assist you in quitting, from patches to gum, even medication. Second, get some exercise. Getting up and getting your blood pumping often leads to a more regulated blood pressure, a stronger heart and a healthier you. Third, be good to yourself. While more research is needed on stress and heart health, stress has been shown to lead to behaviors that produce high levels of triglycerides and raised blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease. Also, limiting your sodium and unhealthy fats intake and instead eating a variety of organic fruits, nuts and leafy green vegetables will aid in having a strong, healthy heart.

Did you also know that red wine and dark chocolate, consumed in moderation of course, are heart healthy as well? Red wine has loads of heart-healthy antioxidants and resveratrol, which may help prevent heart disease and help raise your HDL, which is the good cholesterol. Resveratrol is found in the skin of grapes and is a type of natural phenol that has a positive side effect on blood fats and may help lower blood pressure. You can find a selection of delicious and unique Washington red wines at the Maryhill Winery tasting room in Kendall Yards. Try their Grenache with a piece of dark chocolate, which is also heart healthy. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which have been proven to help lower blood pressure and prevent clots. For that dark chocolate craving, head downtown to Spokandy, where they’ve been keeping people on their toes with their velvety smooth dark chocolates since 1918.

Heart healthy can be delicious, but don’t overdo it on the wine or chocolate. And this doesn’t mean you need to start drinking to be heart healthy either. Too much can lead to more issues, but if chocolate is heart healthy, I’ll take more please! Not a fan of wine? No worries, organic grape juice has been proven to have the same antioxidants and resveratrol as red wine, and it’s super delicious! Just watch the sugar content and, as with anything, consume in moderation.

Just remember, listen to your body and heart. You’ll know when it's telling you something. Be sure to schedule that appointment and have your heart checked today. Remember, a healthy heart is a healthy you.

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