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By Rebecca Fending
Each February is American Heart Month, a month dedicated to maintaining or bettering one’s health through paying attention to their heart to protect against America’s number one killer, heart disease.
This month has always been about hearts, largely in a romantic connotation, but the American Heart Association is celebrating the 57th annual Heart Month. February was adorned with this honor in 1964 by Lyndon B. Johnson, nine years after his own heart attack.
According to the Association’s website, heart disease kills more Americans annually than each form of cancer combined. The number of reported heart attacks in the country exceeds the population of Dallas, Texas, the ninth most-populous state in the U.S. Even with these astounding statistics, 72% of Americans don’t consider themselves to be at risk of heart disease. For this reason, American Heart Month is the perfect month to start doing more for your health.
There are a number of different foods, exercises and lifestyle differences you can make to improve your heart health, but one great way is to indulge in fresh strawberries. Every Floridian knows that strawberries are currently in season with the upcoming Florida Strawberry Festival, so what better way to celebrate spring and do something for your heart than visit the Festival? From March 4 to 14, this annual event will take place in Plant City, Florida, for its 91st anniversary.
How do strawberries contribute to better heart health?
According to WebMD, these little rubies increase HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol), lower blood pressure and help guard against cancer. Each of these benefits has to do with the high level of antioxidants found in strawberries, known as polyphenols. These antioxidants help eliminate free radicals within the body that contribute to aging and cancer. Strawberries are also packed to the brim with vitamins and minerals such as manganese (increased blood flow) and potassium (muscle health) which both assist the muscle of the heart to beat in a steady, rhythmic beat without interruption.
A study conducted by Dr. Eric Rimm, associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, followed a study group of women ages 25 to 42 over the course of 18 years. It found that the women who ate less berries each week had an elevated risk of heart disease or attack. Dr. Rimm concluded it was in part due to the number of anthocyanins in strawberries, the antioxidant-like compound that gives strawberries their deep red color.
If you’re looking to take action in guarding your heart against disease or attack, the Florida Strawberry Festival may be your best bet. While it may be difficult to turn down strawberry shortcake, be sure to indulge in the naked fruit itself more frequently than strawberry desserts.
To read more about heart health and what you can do to improve yours, visit heart.org. Read on in this issue of Lifestyles about how laughing might be the answer to a number of health issues, including risk of heart disease, and a super simple chicken chili recipe chock-full of heart-health ingredients.
Have a great start to your spring and we’ll see you in March!