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heart disease

The Health Initiative Close to Vanessa Williams’ Heart

Written on June 7, 2013 at 11:17 am , by

The diet tip Vanessa swears by: Don’t keep unhealthy options in your house. “You’re going to torture yourself!”

As an actress, singer, dancer, author, model and mother, Vanessa Williams puts a triple-threat to shame. No wonder she looks so darn good at 50! Since being crowned the first African American to be crowned Miss America back in 1983, Vanessa has conquered television (Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives and 666 Park Avenue, to name a few) and the big screen. Most recently, she returned to the Broadway stage in “The Trip to Bountiful.” But a busy life of fame and fortune doesn’t stand in Vanessa’s way for one of her biggest passion projects: spreading heart health awareness. With loved ones affected by heart disease, she turned to Bayer and WomenHeart to make a difference. We sat down with the starlet to learn more about how a simple handbag item can save lives and—of course—found out her age defying secrets. Read on for the full interview.

What inspired you to connect with Bayer aspirin in this whole initiative of the Handbags and Hearts?

I’ve been involved with heart issues for probably 10 years now. My grandmother died at 28 of a heart attack, my other grandmother died at 64 of a heart attack and so I’ve always been pretty vocal about women’s health issues—especially heart disease. They approached me about starting the campaign for Handbags and Hearts to increase the awareness of the correlation, being the number one killer for women, but also to have people—especially women—carry aspirin in their handbags, their purse, their pocketbooks. That’s important. And also to have women know that our symptoms are different than men’s. We want to drive people to the website so they can see what the symptoms are, be aware of them. Obviously if there is an issue, the first thing they need to do is call 911, but go in their bag and grab an aspirin because it’s shown that it helps to reduce further damage to the heart once a heart attack actually happens to you. It helps save lives. It’s been a fantastic partnership with WomenHeart and Bayer. Every person that pledges and every woman that goes online to pledge at the site, they’re going to donate up to $200,000.

Besides aspirin, how do you personally boost your heart health?

Cardio—I work out all the time. I mix it up, whether its treadmill at my house, or riding bikes. Recently, I’ve been doing in LA a gym called Body Theory, and there’s a class called “Drench.” You are literally drenched by the time you finish it! It’s an hour and a half of pure cardio and weights, which is fantastic and I’m obsessed with. In NY, I do at Westchester MMA a heavy bag fit class, which is everything from jumping rope to a lot of boot camp exercises. But then you tape up your hands—you do wraps—put your boxing gloves on and you fight a heavy bag, one of those big six-foot bags. You do combinations of that—kicks and punches. I like to mix it up.

So staying fit as a busy mother on four, killing it on Broadway…that must be really tough. How do you keep up with fitness and healthy food on-the-go?

You make time for it. Sometimes, you can’t. If you cant make it to the gym, try to get on a treadmill. If you cant get into the gym or to a treadmill, try walking. Try to do something for at least (for me) 45 minutes to an hour in a day, just to feel energized, and feel like my body is woken up, that I’ve felt all the endorphins, then start my day. And I like to work out in the morning—I can’t do afternoon or evening workouts. I need to do it in the morning. Get it done, start my day, feel the adrenaline. But you have to make time. Same thing with food. You have to make an effort. My biggest tip is to not have anything that I don’t want to eat in my house. It’s one thing when you know there are cookies that are calling your name and you know that every time you walk by the cupboard, they’re there and you’re battling with yourself—should I open it, should I not, should I have one…you’re going to torture yourself. So don’t have them in your house. As soon as, if I get a basket or gift bag filled with something delicious that I know I don’t want to wipe out the entire thing, I’ll bring it to the cast and say, “Put it on the green room table, enjoy!” I’ll have one and walk out of the room so I don’t have to wrestle with should I or should I not. Because food is good! It’s easy to make healthy choices, too. Living in this country, there are so many opportunities for anything, anything online, for sure. I fast, I do juice cleanses maybe three times a year. I’ve done BluePrint for probably five years. But that’s always great to kind of reboot your system, especially if you feel sluggish or a bit toxic like after holidays—you just want to clean yourself out and start fresh.

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Prepare to Be a Hero During National CPR Week

Written on June 4, 2013 at 12:44 pm , by

Use this hand position while performing CPR. (Image courtesy of the American Heart Association)

Did you know…

  • Nearly 360,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the United States, accounting for 80 percent of total cardiac arrest cases.
  • About 90 percent of people who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital die because they don’t receive immediate CPR from someone on the scene.
  • Only 41 percent of people who experience a cardiac arrest get the immediate help that they need before emergency help arrives.

For these reasons and more, the American Heart Association wants you to brush up on your skills now during National CPR Week (June 1-7). According to the AHA, CPR can double, and perhaps even triple, the likelihood of survival of someone whose heart has stopped. Think about it: if you do nothing, nothing has a chance to improve!

If you’re turned off by the traditional idea of CPR including mouth-to-mouth, fear not. Updated recommendations promote a hands-only method, which has only two steps:

  1. Call 9-1-1.
  2. Push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of the disco song “Stayin’ Alive.”

Are you CPR-certified? If so, post the AHA’s hand image above on your social media accounts or share pictures of your own hands in the #CPRReady position. If not, stop sitting on the sidelines and find a course near you!

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Heart Health Tips to Live By

Written on May 6, 2013 at 11:11 am , by

people jogging with dog

Your pooch’s heart health will be better, too! Photo by Christa Renee

A few months ago, we were reminded during “heart month” about how heart disease kills way too many women. As the seasons change and some of us feel reinvigorated to revamp their diets and routine, we want to urge you to remember these super-simple steps to reduce your chances of heart disease. By employing these easy strategies, you’re helping to make sure you don’t wind up a statistic.

1. Engage in at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity, 5 days/week.  This isn’t for weight loss but basic heart health.  Whatever exercise you like — walking, cycling, weight lifting, swimming — works, though variety is ideal.  No matter how busy you are, everyone has the time, so try to make it!

2. Stand up.  Sitting is the new smoking.  Where can you find time in your day to stand and move , beyond structured physical activity?  Maybe rather than watching TV, you go for a family walk before or after dinner.  Start a walking group at work or investigate stand-up desks if you work at home.  If you have dogs, take them for a walk instead just letting them out back.  There are a lot of opportunities to move — you just need to be creative, take control and make a conscious effort to make you a priority.

3. Eat more omega-3 fats.  Omega-3 fats are amazing for us. The best way to get them in the diet is from foods like wild seafood (salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies), among others.  Read more

One More Time: 3 Healthy Foods for Your Heart!

Written on February 25, 2013 at 2:45 pm , by

Photo by Flickr user Boz Bros.

Photo by Flickr user Boz Bros.

You know by now that February is American Heart Month…but since heart disease is the #1 killer in America and this month is a shorty, it’s worth reminding you about some healthy foods that can lower your risk:

1. “Good” Fat. The low fat craze in the early 90‘s had it all wrong. Our favorite healthy fats are olive, canola and fish oil.  The last you can’t cook with, but the first two are great to use in place of less healthy options like soybean oil, shortening, or margarine.

As for fish oil, there are a lot of data suggesting adding fish oil — AKA omega 3 fat — can drastically improve health, including the health of your heart.  In our house we use, like, and trust Nordic Naturals — our children (a 3 ½ and 1 year-old) both take it daily.

2. Dark Chocolate. The key is picking a quality dark chocolate; we use 100% raw cacao if baking or making hot chocolate. (Aim for 70%+ cacao if eating it by itself, which it usually tells you on bar). Dark chocolate can help improve cholesterol, circulation, and insulin resistance, while reducing blood pressure.

3. Eggs.  Say what? The “high in cholesterol” whole eggs? Absolutely. Here’s the sunny side of eggs—we love the data on how eating eggs can help you lose weight.  One study compared subjects eating a bagel breakfast vs. an equal amount of calories from eggs. The result? The egg group lost almost twice as much weight and had an 83 percent greater decrease in their waistlines.

-Chris and Kara Mohr, mohrresults.com

 

Minka Kelly Shows Her Heart In Red

Written on February 7, 2013 at 4:17 pm , by

Minka broke up the coral hue and accentuated her itty bitty waistline with a gold belt. (Photo by Jennifer Graylock/Getty Images for Heart Truth)

Red hot alert! Last night, we cozied up along the catwalk with fashion’s finest in support of The Heart Truth, a national campaign raising awareness for women’s heart disease led by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). This year’s Red Dress Collection show kicked off Fashion Week with more than 15 of our favorite athletes and celebs—Gabrielle Douglas, Jillian Michaels and Minka Kelly, to name a few—sporting scarlet designer gowns. Their individual runway motivation may have varied, as projected on the big screen while they strutted their stuff, but they all shared the collective goal of putting an end to the number one killer of American women. Eat your heart out, heart disease!

Before stepping out in a flowy Oscar de la Renta number, we caught up with Minka and asked her all about her involvement as Diet Coke’s Celebrity Ambassador. Here’s how the starlet keeps her “Sexist Woman Alive” body fit, heart strong and more!

This is your second year as an ambassador for The Heart Truth! What inspired your continued partnership with Diet Coke?

Last year when I learned that heart disease was the number one killer of women in America, I was really inspired to get involved and use whatever voice I could to help inspire women to take care of their hearts because you’re never too young or too old. This year it’s a little different. You can upload a photo of yourself to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag “#showyourheart” and every post Diet Coke will donate a dollar, up to $100,000, so that’s my goal this year.

What have you done personally to lower your heart disease risk?

Living a healthy lifestyle and exercising and eating healthy has been a big part of my life for some time now, which is why working with this campaign made so much sense for me and I’m really passionate about it. So it’s just a fit that makes sense.

Any heart-healthy fitness and diet tips?

I try and get my blood pumping once a day. I work with a trainer three times a week and on the off days, I do yoga or I hike. I just try to be active every day and I try and eat as healthy as possible. I try and be aware of “food-combining,” which I think is very important, but I certainly don’t deprive myself. Everything in moderation is key. I think portion control is also very important. Read more

Wear Red to Stop Your Number One Health Threat

Written on February 1, 2013 at 8:26 am , by

Wear red for your heart with Go Red for Women.

Are you wearing red today? February 1, 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign to raise awareness and funding to fight heart disease. Heart disease remains the number one killer of American women, causing one in three women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute. Symptoms of heart disease differ in women than men, so we chatted with Dr. Malissa J. Wood, MD FACC, Co-Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center Corrigan Women’s Health Program and a a Go Red for Women spokesperson. Here are her tips for keeping your ticker in top condition.

Quit smoking. “Even a small amount of nicotine can be detrimental to your cardio health.”

Exercise, exercise, exercise. “High blood pressure, being overweight, being sedentary, being stressed are all detrimental to you cardio health. Regular exercise is better than something you can take in a bottle because it helps with all of those risk areas.  Count your steps. It may be daunting to join a gym, but walking is free and something you can track. That’s a start if you’re sedentary. Aim for 5-7 hours of aerobic exercise per week and do weights twice a week.”

Reassess your nutrition. “Abs are not made in the gym, they are made in the kitchen. As we age and estrogen levels drop, we will get more weight around our middle, which is associated with a higher diabetes risk. Eating better helps prepare us for when our body starts to metabolize and store fat differently. Even fit women need to think about what you eat. As you age, your body will react differently to the things you’re able to eat in your 20s.” Read more

Fit Links: Say Bye-Bye to Blisters and Order Slim Fast Food

Written on April 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm , by

Feet not quite this flawless? At least you can protect them. (Photo by Ericka McConnell)

This week’s fit links from around the web:

How Do You Eat a Heart-Smart Diet?

Written on March 1, 2012 at 12:11 pm , by

The Heart-Check mark appears on foods that are good for your ticker. (Photo courtesy of the American Heart Association)

March 1 marks more than the start of a new month—it’s the beginning of a 31-day celebration of healthy eating. Welcome to National Nutrition Month! You’ll discover delicious recipes, food news and simple nutrition-boosting strategies to help you celebrate in style all month long here at The Fit Stop.

To kick things off, let’s talk food shopping. We know that it’s smart to shop in the produce aisle and save cookies for treats, but the gray area between these ends of the grocery spectrum can be tricky! That’s why the American Heart Association (AHA) awards their Heart-Check mark to food products that meet their requirements as cardiac-friendly.

“It’s an easy way to identify, on the front of a package, heart-healthy foods,” says Rachel Johnson, R.D., PH.D., an AHA spokesperson and a professor of nutrition and medicine at the University of Vermont. “The science-based criteria takes into account fat, sugar, sodium and a number of other factors. It’s really helpful because you don’t need a Ph.D. in nutrition to know if a food is healthy or not.”

To respond to the most recent research, new guidelines will go into place by 2014. Sodium and added sugar limits will be lowered and the total fat limit will be raised to accommodate products with healthy unsaturated fats, like nuts and oily fish.

Of course, there are many foods and drinks out there that are super-nutritious and don’t need a label to tell you (Strawberries! Oats! Water!). Follow these general guidelines from the AHA to consume a heart-healthy diet:

  • 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables or more daily
  • Two 3.5-ounce servings of oily fish (such as salmon, tuna or mackerel) weekly
  • Three 1-ounce servings of whole grains daily
  • Less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily
  • No more than 36 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages weekly (less is better)

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Fit Links: A Hot Super (Bowl) Food and Celebrating National Wear Red Day

Written on February 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm , by

Carrot consumption rises dramatically on Super Bowl Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

This week’s fit links from around the web:

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

5 Sneaky Habits That Sabotage Your Heart

Written on November 18, 2011 at 8:15 am , by

Heart Hands

Photo courtesy of Spark People

We all know that for optimum heart health we need to eat a healthy diet, exercise and not smoke. But little things you do every day can also have a big impact on the most important muscle in your body. Are you guilty of any of these seemingly innocent mistakes?

1. You fly off the handle. Do you suffer from regular bouts of rage or intense anger at home, at work or in traffic? If so, your angry temperament may be hurting more than the people around you. While moderate anger can be a good way to release tension, explosive anger or chronic bouts of rage can increase your risk of heart disease. Anger and anxiety have been shown to increase blood pressure, disrupt the electrical impulses of the heart and possibly speed up the process of atherosclerosis, a fatty build up in the arteries.

2. You sleep too much (or too little). Getting fewer than five—or more than nine—hours of sleep a night can hurt your heart because both extremes elevate blood pressure and levels of stress hormones. In fact, the Nurses’ Health Study of more than 71,000 women, ages 45 to 65, found that sleeping five or fewer hours each night increased the risk of coronary disease by a whopping 45%. Those who regularly slept nine or more hours had a 38% greater risk than those who slept eight hours—even after taking snoring and smoking in account.

3. You don’t floss regularly. You may think that regular flossing just helps keep your pearly whites in tip-top shape, but research shows that dental disease and cardiac health are correlated. Researchers believe that inflammation from gum disease allows bacteria to enter your mouth’s blood vessels, travel into the coronary artery vessels, and narrow their passages. This reduces blood flow, which hurts the heart. In fact, people with coronary artery disease are 38% more likely to also have gum disease. While research is still being done in this area, it’s best to keep that mouth healthy!

4. You see the glass as half empty. Looking on the bright side isn’t just about improving your mental state; it’s also a boon to your heart. In a groundbreaking 2009 issue of the American Heart Association journal Circulation, researchers found that not only did optimism seem to protect against heart disease and death but also that pessimism seemed to increase the risk. Pessimists were more likely than optimists to have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and suffer from depression (which has also been linked to poor heart health). Cynics are also more likely to be overweight, smoke and avoid exercise. All reason to start focusing on what’s good in life, right?

5. You think secondhand smoke is no big deal. While the association between tobacco use and heart disease is undeniable, did you know that secondhand smoke also harm your heart? Constant exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace or at home nearly doubles a person’s risk of having a heart attack.

Continued: 3 More Bad Habits for Your Heart. Plus: How to Combat All of These Saboteurs!


More from SparkPeople:

What Causes Heart Disease?

Eating for a Healthy Heart

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