5 ways smoking hurts your heart

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University of Michigan cardiologist Dr. G. Michael Deeb wants his patients to know something: Nicotine is toxic not only to the lungs but also to the heart. “When most patients think of the dangers of smoking, they think about the lungs,” says Dr. Deeb. “But cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in Michigan, and smoking is accelerating the problem.”

According to the American Heart Association, as many as 30 percent of all coronary heart disease deaths in the United States each year are attributable to cigarette smoking, and the more you smoke, the greater your risk. But even people who smoke fewer than five cigarettes a day can have early signs of cardiovascular disease. Continue reading

Five key heart health screenings

Tests to help determine your risk for cardiovascular disease

heart blogAre you at risk for heart disease? The best way to find out is through cardiovascular screening tests. The American Heart Association recommends the following key cardiovascular health screenings:

1. Blood pressure 

Blood pressure is one of the most important screenings because high blood pressure usually has no symptoms so it can’t be detected without being measured. High blood pressure greatly increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. If your blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg, be sure to get it checked at least once every two years, starting at age 20. If your blood pressure is higher, your doctor may want to check it more often. High blood pressure can be controlled through lifestyle changes or medication. After age 65, women have a higher risk of high blood pressure than men, and African-American adults of all ages have a higher-than-average risk. Continue reading

Discover the benefits of yoga

The U-M Domino's Farms Fitness Center features a top-notch yoga program

yoga blogMary Armstrong loves yoga. It’s something the 67-year-old has practiced over the years as a way of connecting with her grown daughters.

So when she experienced high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat a few years ago, Mary was happy to discover the rehabilitation program at the University of Michigan Preventive Cardiology Fitness Center at Domino’s Farms included a yoga program. It proved to be a perfect fit for her, both physically and emotionally.

“This yoga program is so different from other classes I’ve taken,” says Mary. “The instructors perform each pose slowly and help us do the poses correctly.” She says the class is challenging, but the instructors are happy to demonstrate modifications whenever necessary.

Mary believes her yoga practice has helped lower her blood pressure, which is monitored before and after each class. “I’m now in the normal range,” she says. The four weekly classes Mary fits into her schedule have also increased her strength and flexibility. Continue reading

What’s Cinco de Mayo without Cilantro?

Add this distinct herb for extra flavor and health benefits

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Pico de Gallo is a traditional Mexican dish featuring fresh cilantro.

We’re taking a look at herbs and their ability to add great flavor to your recipes, often eliminating the need for salt. We started with basil in March and this month we’re featuring cilantro.

Be sure to check back often to learn more about herbs and how to incorporate them into a delicious, healthy eating plan.

Celebrate with cilantro

With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner, it’s time to celebrate Mexican food and culture. Pico de Gallo, with its fresh tomato, onion, chile, lime juice and cilantro, is a classic component of Mexican festivities.  It’s also popular in Thai, Indian and Chinese cuisines.

Of cilantro’s two components used in cooking (seeds and leaves), our focus is on the leaves. The seeds are known as coriander and the leaves are known as cilantro (or coriander leaves). Look for bright green leaves without yellow spots if you purchase cut cilantro. If you’re harvesting from your own garden, cut up to 1/3 of the plant at a time, leaving enough leaves for continued growth. To clean cilantro leaves, move them gently around a bowl of cold water until all dirt/sand is removed. When chopping the cilantro, include some of the tender stems for additional flavor. Continue reading

Add fresh herbs for great flavor and heart-healthy benefits

Get onboard with basil

herbs blogFresh herbs add great flavor to a variety of dishes and are a wonderful complement to a Mediterranean-style eating plan. Adding herbs to recipes also eliminates the need for salt. A low-sodium diet may help improve blood pressure, thus reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Herbs also provide healthy antioxidants and, if you grow them yourself, will be at peak quality for your favorite recipes.

We’ll take a look at several different herbs in the coming months, starting today with basil. Be sure to check back often to learn more about herbs and how they can be used in specific recipes.

The benefits of basil

If you’re excited to get your herb garden started, begin by planting basil seeds indoors in early to mid-April. The plants can be transplanted outdoors when the temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, even at night. Because it is sensitive to cooler temperatures, basil is an annual herb in Michigan. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, frequent care through pruning will result in greater production of leaves. Continue reading

Five tips for heart-healthy eating

U-M nutritionists share favorite tips on Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist Day

fruit veggie heart blogThe theme for this year’s Nutrition Month (throughout March) is “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle.” In honor of this, as well as today’s Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist Day, we asked the U-M Cardiovascular Nutrition Team to share tips for heart-healthy eating. Here’s what they had to say …

1. There’s no one size fits all

“Diets abound, from vegetarian to meat-based, from low carb to ‘the right carb’ — and everything in between. The truth is, the same diet is not right for everyone. When it comes to the best eating pattern, there is no ‘one size fits all.’ Our genetics, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol values and blood sugar are just a few of the measures that can guide us to learn the best eating pattern for each of us individually. Working with a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist is one way to learn the best eating pattern for you.” — Kathy Rhodes, PhD, RDN Continue reading