Health & Wellness / Home & Family

American Heart Month

Thanks to Valentine’s Day, February is known as the month of love. During this time, love of others, self-love, and self-care come to the forefront. So, too, does attention to the heart – and ways that we can be good to our bodies to prevent cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of Americans.

In the United States, February is annually recognized as heart healthy month. It is the time of year when focus is on cardiovascular health and wellness. The inspiration began with President Lyndon B. Johnson, an influential man who was among the millions of people who’d had heart attacks. In his desire to bring this important health issue to the forefront, he acknowledged the afflicted and the “…staggering physical and economic loss to the nation…” Thus, he issued the first proclamation in 1964 to wage a nation-wide attack on heart disease. He sought to support government-sponsored heart and blood vessel disease awareness programs, as well as encourage research, education, and community service to create public awareness. Since then, all U.S. presidents have annually recognized February as American Heart Month. For some, heart disease is entirely preventable. Fortunately, hope persists in the reduction of and/ or prevention of CVD in some individuals who model heart healthy behaviors. Let’s examine some ways in which better heart health may be achieved.

  • Talk to your doctor. It’s important to pay attention to your heart health. A great way to do that is to have open and honest discussions with your doctor to assess your risks and follow through with testing that can provide a picture of your heart health. Remember that genetics play a part in one’s overall health and even in some heart conditions. For example, per Nebraska Medicine, studies suggest that 50% of coronary artery disease (CAD) is set at birth through genetic makeup. The other half is determined by lifestyle or environmental factors. Smoking is one example of a lifestyle habit that is linked to negative health impacts. So be sure to share with your doctor information on your family heart history, lifestyle choices, and other conditions that may adversely affect your health. Together, you and your physician can implement changes to protect your heart and keep you living strong.
  • Eat and drink properly for good heart health. This includes choosing the best foods that are good for your body (such as heart healthy vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lean meats, fish, healthy oils, etc.)  and consuming less or eliminating those foods which are considered bad for us (unhealthy processed meats, carbohydrates, trans fats, high sugar, or high salt foods, etc.) In fact, high levels of fats and cholesterol in the body can present danger in the form of blood clots. Poor eating habits affect all aspects of health, not just the heart, so a nutritious diet is beneficial for overall wellness. Note that chronic heavy drinkers my also face higher risks of dying from heart disease, so do guard what you drink. When possible, choose heart healthy beverages such as green superfood drinks in place of sugary sodas and juices. It’s also good to drink plain old water to stay hydrated and to help your body properly function.
  • Exercise for ideal health. Docs say it’s important for people to exercise regularly about 30-minutes a day and for at least five days a week. Some of the best exercises for the heart include brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis, and jumping rope, per Johns Hopkins Medicine. These heart-pumping aerobic exercises are what doctors generally suggest when they suggest 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. Fitness is key to living healthful but do seek the advice of your physician before beginning any new exercise routines.
  • Stay educated. There are lots of wonderful programs designed to educate segments of the population on heart health. For example, the CDC sponsors a campaign called  “Live to the Beat,” aimed at reducing risk and occurrence of CVD amongst Black adults aged 35 to 54, a group adversely and predominantly affected by heart disease. However, it’s important to note that heart issues span all races, sexes, and ages and are not exclusive to one group. Tragically, CVD is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States and is also the leading cause of death worldwide. To change this statistic, focus needs to zero-in on education and sharing of the good news that many heart-associated problems can be prevented by positive lifestyle changes.

Lyndon B. Johnson did his part in establishing the urgency for folks to “give heed to the nationwide problem of the heart and blood vessel diseases…” and to work toward solutions. Shortly after, the first Surgeon General’s report demonstrated the dangers of smoking and shared the effects of the public health burden. In the words of former President Trump, “We know that individuals can live longer and better lives by refraining from tobacco use, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.” He urged companies to give people more access to information so they can use it to make better informed and health-conscious choices.

Knowing how to do CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is also essential to saving lives. Visit (CPR steps/perform CPR) and (What is CPR/American Heart Association CPR & First Aid)

  • Adult CPR consists of chest compressions (and sometimes rescue breathing or a combo) to help get oxygen-rich blood to the brain to restart breathing.
  • The key is to call 911, remain calm, lay the person on their back and check breathing, and start CPR if no breathing.
  • Remember to push fast and hard and perform 30 chest compressions then two rescue breaths (if needed) and repeat until ambulance or automated external defibrillator arrives.
  • To do the 30 chest compressions, place one of your hands on top of the other and clasp them together. With the heel of hands and straight elbows, push hard and fast in the center of the chest, slightly below the nipples. Push at least 2 inches deep and compress the chest at a rate of at least 100 times per minute. Let the chest rise fully between compressions.

This article is purely informational only and is not intended as medical advice. Please visit the websites listed above to learn more about lifesaving CPR techniques and to gain further understanding on how to treat adults versus infants and children.

We hope you've enjoyed this article. While you're here, we have a small favor to ask...

Support the AMAC Foundation. Our 501(c)(3) powers the AMAC Foundation’s Social Security Advisory Services. This team of nationally accredited advisors offers on-time, on-the-mark guidance for those approaching or receiving Social Security – at no cost.

Donate Now

If You Enjoy Articles Like This - Subscribe to the AMAC Daily Newsletter
and Download the AMAC App

Sign Up Today Download

If You Enjoy Articles Like This - Subscribe to the AMAC Daily Newsletter!

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 months ago

We’re all familiar with the FDA’s Food Pyramid, right? It was replaced by Michelle Obama’s MyPlate program, and now it appears we’re back to the pyramid again. I was doing all those good things as a young mother of two–never smoked, didn’t drink alcohol, ate well, physically active with work as a horticulturist/landscaper. Homemade whole wheat bread, brown rice, no deep-frying, tended a vegetable garden, not many sweets.

And yet, I was a fraction of a point away from needing insulin shots. Shocker! The doctor didn’t know what to say, so it was the usual eat well-get exercise-get enough sleep routine. Did all that. Type 2 diabetes and CVD was in the family, unfortunately, with both parents, and I didn’t want to rely on drugs as they did.

Long story short, eating lots of greens saved me. The brassicas, in particular, are great anti-inflammatory foods–broccoli, arugula, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, pac choi, etc. (Some websites add Swiss chard and spinach to the brassica family, but they’re in a different family altogether.) Very good for arteries, the heart, skin, brain, eyes; overall, those are the healthiest foods you can eat. They have lots of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, protein, and even some Omega-3 fats.)

The brassicas are the only crops that have sulforaphanes, beneficial antioxidants that help prevent cancer, particularly colon cancer. But, to get access to those sulforaphanes, you have to chop the broccoli and others and let them sit for 30-45 minutes before cooking. This gives the enzyme (myrosinase) enough time to work on the precursors of sulforaphane and to make that full transformation. The enzyme is destroyed by heat; eating them raw will get you those antioxidants. Fresh is best; they lose more nutrients each day as they sit in the refrigerator. Another note–frozen broccoli has been heated, which kills the enzyme, so you won’t get any of the good antioxidants from them (unless you sprinkle a scant amount of dry mustard on them). Best–grow them yourself!

Years after I changed my diet to include brassicas every single day, my blood tests are well within normal. And, of course, I cut the carbs way down, so I eat bread, pasta, rice and potatoes only once or twice a week. Cookies, crackers, candy–less often.

Our chemistries and family genetics differ from one another, so some of us have to work harder to keep illnesses away. But the biggest tier of the food pyramid is still the grains; refined or otherwise, they’re still high in those inflammatory carbs. And inflammation is, I think, the bigger killer in CVD. Time for another makeover. Nutritionfacts dot org has really good videos on these details and emphasizes a vegan lifestyle, but I do include fish and dairy, and chicken less often, in my diet.

Feelin’ pretty good for an old lady. Thanks for your articles; I wish they had broader exposure to AMAC readers.

Clark Kent
3 months ago
Reply to  Kim

What are these ‘vegetables’ you speak of?

3 months ago
Reply to  Clark Kent

Which vegetables? I’m not sure what you’re asking, so I’ll touch on the brassicas again. All plants are categorized into “families”. Various species with similar characteristics (in evolution, molecular structure, and genetics) compose a family. So, the Amaranthaceae family includes spinach, Swiss chard, beets, and others. The Solanaceae family includes tomato, pepper, potato, eggplant, and others.

The group I write about most often in my gardening blog is Brassicaceae. Composed of only a few species but many, many varieties, this is the group I believe to be the most health-promoting due to their heavy nutrient content. That’s not an assumption or a guess; it comes from years of reading credible websites and other sources (there’s a lot of junk science out there) that summarize all the worlds’ research projects. I also check out who’s funding the research, and dismiss those selling products or espousing wild, unfounded therapies.

Being a horticulturist and vegetable gardener for 50 years helps me understand soil science, beneficial microbes, and the huge variety of crops that most people never consume. Homegrown vegetables picked fresh contain higher amounts of nutrients than those sitting on the grocer’s shelf, no matter how fresh they look. You pick what you need, so there’s no waste. Plus, considering our family history, I see the connection between what we’re not eating and the higher incidence of heart disease, very high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

Brassicas–formerly called cruciferous crops–have high levels of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients (scores of different antioxidants), protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids, so they help guard against all sorts of illnesses. Those sulforaphanes mentioned in the earlier comment don’t occur in any other plant families, yet they’re the most useful to help prevent cancer. They’re especially protective against cancers of the alimentary canal (the digestive system).

I include brassicas in my diet every day. I live in USDA plant hardiness zone 7 (NC), which allows year-round gardening. Greens are my favorites, even more than tomatoes and peppers, and they’re the ones that are most cold-tolerant. During cold snaps, I cover certain greens with large sheets of clear plastic to keep them a bit warmer at night. But the hardier ones can tolerate 18-25 degrees without damage.

I grow:

  • arugula–‘Astro’ is not as hot as other wild types. Use in salads, soups, veggie omelets, tomato sauce, eggplant parmesan. Self-seeds in rich, moist soil; morning sun in summer. Did fine this winter until that sudden 0 degree Arctic Blast just before Christmas. New batch will be planted soon.
  • broccoli–‘Green Magic’ in spring; ‘Arcadia’ for fall and winter crops. There are still several plants in the garden bearing heads now (Feb.) because I covered them when very cold. Has 2/3 the protein that chicken has, calorie for calorie.
  • mini broccoli ‘Happy Rich’–my favorite vegetable because it’s versatile (omelet, salad, steamed, soup, stir-fry) and delicious. Small heads, 6-12″ stems, and leaves are edible. Once cut, it branches out for another harvest. They lasted 10 months in my garden! Very well-enriched soil (esp. with lots of aged cow manure and a soil pH around 7) guarantees tender stems. Unless you buy my transplants at the farmers’ market, you’ll have to start it from seed. Easy to do.
  • cabbage–used raw in cole slaw, it gives you all those sulforaphanes without waiting (see previous comment). Surprisingly high in omega-3 fats.
  • cauliflower–a bit challenging for some, needs very rich soil (compost, aged cow manure).
  • collards–great in collards soup. Even my mother loved it.
  • kale–I use the more tender kales–dinosaur, or ‘Lacinato’, and ‘Red Russian’. Very cold hardy. Very high in Vit. K, so if you’re taking blood thinners, check with your doctor.
  • mustard greens, turnip greens, Komatsuna, tatsoi, gai lan, pac choi are more brassicas, and I grow them all.

I also grow

  • tomatoes–prefer the “black” tomatoes–‘Cherokee Purple’, ‘Black Krim’ for additional anthocyanins.
  • sweet peppers–especially ones that ripen orange (‘Gourmet’, for one)–many, many times more zeaxanthin, a plant pigment and antioxidant, good for eyesight.
  • a small number of potatoes–I plant the ones that grow shoots in the refrigerator, instead of composting them.
  • lettuce–red and dark green varieties have more nutrients.
  • cucumber–‘Diva’ has thin skin, so it doesn’t need to be peeled. Avoid peeling fruits and vegetables because the skins have more antioxidants, vitamins, fiber than the flesh. Easy from seed.
  • “sustainable bunching onions”–‘Nabechan’ and other bunching onions don’t make bulbs. If you hill up soil around the stem, you’ll get a longer white part, but green leaves also are edible. Harvest by cutting 1/2″ above the bottom of the stem, and the base will grow another green onion in 2-3 weeks, repeatedly.
  • strawberries/blueberries/raspberries.
  • spinach, eggplant, zucchini, peas, leeks, winter squash (for storage), herbs, new asparagus bed, figs, and more.

Also in my diet every day–white button mushrooms (helps protect against breast cancer), extra virgin olive oil, nuts (esp. English walnuts), berries. Not many fruits because of their high sugar content.

Well, that’s a start. As important as eating well is, it’s unfortunate that doctors don’t emphasize this. From taking care of my mother for many years before she died, it seemed that they would rather have given her prescriptions instead of instructing her in what to eat or not to eat. (Pretty sure they get some benefit from the pharmaceutical companies for prescribing their drugs.) She did much better after I moved in with her (she lived to 95), but she had been taking a handful of drugs every day for decades. Years ago, I read a brochure from the American Diabetic Assn., and couldn’t believe the recipes they recommended–way too high in carbs.

Growing a vegetable garden not only produces the healthiest crops, but it also saves a ton of money. And you can grow them without pesticides. If you can’t do a garden, you can grow almost every crop in containers.

I hope this helps. Learning all this stuff and keeping it to myself would be a blunder on my part…

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x