The 14th of February might be famous for matters of the heart, but did you know the whole month is dedicated to heart health? February is American Heart Month, bringing heart disease and its methods of prevention into the spotlight. Maintaining a healthy heart is not something that should be put off until old age. Habits started today will have their effect later in life. Read on for some suggestions on how to share a heart healthy Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart.
1. Say “ohm” together
There is an even better reason to try yoga with your significant other than to see him or her in a pair of yoga pants. A study by the University of Kansas Medical Center found that one of the benefits of yoga is regulation of heart rate. This type of exercise can also lower resting heart rate and reduce stress.
There are several yoga studios in the Madison area offering classes for a range of skill levels. An easy way to locate a nearby studio is through yogafinder.com.
2. Give back together
Instead of giving your honey an expensive gift, suggest a volunteer activity the two of you can complete together. Research done by the Corporation for National & Community Service has found volunteers report improvements in physical and psychological health, lower rates of depression and mortality as well as increased life satisfaction.
Increasing your partner’s life satisfaction is only second to the good you will be doing for the community. To find volunteer opportunities in the Madison area, you can try going to the Morgridge Center for Public Service on campus or check out their website at morgridge.wisc.edu.
3. Cook a meal togetherForget all those expensive Valentine’s Day specials on the square. A great way to have a delicious (and healthy) meal together is to cook one right at home. To make an especially heart-healthy meal, pick a recipe high in fruits and vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids. Good sources of omega-3s include salmon, tuna, trout, canola oil, kidney beans and walnuts.
Cooking at home also allows you to control the sodium content of the meal. Instead of flavoring with salt, try picking out a new spice blend with your partner from the spice aisle at the grocery store.
4.Kick your nasty habit
Kissing an ash tray is never appealing, and quitting smoking is one of the best things that can be done for a healthier heart. If you or your partner is a smoker looking to quit, University Health Services offer tips on their website, uhs.wisc.edu. Or, you can call their office to speak with a clinician in person.
This habit can be especially hard to quit if you and your partner are used to smoking together. Smokefree.gov offers advice on how to deal with relationships and quitting smoking at the same time.
5. Enjoy each other’s company
Unhealthy relationships won’t do your heart any favors. Research on civil servants in Great Britain found that throughout a 12-year period, people in poor relationships were more likely to have heart trouble by as much as 34 percent. A happier couple may mean healthier hearts.
A State University of New York at Oswego study also found that drops in blood pressure occurred when subjects simply spent time with their partner. The school year can get hectic, but setting aside time to spend together is worth the extra effort.
6. If you do chocolate, keep it dark and limit it to 1.5 oz.
The claim about dark chocolate and the benefits its antioxidants can have on the heart are nearly infamous. Although dark chocolate is preferred over other varieties and may have benefits for the heart, this is only true if the serving size is kept to 1.5 ounces.
Chocolate is considered dark when it has a cocoa content greater than 35 percent. The antioxidant content increases with the percent cocoa. How much is 1.5 ounces exactly? It is about the size of 3 tablespoons or equal to 45 grams. It equates to about 150-200 calories depending on the cocoa butter content of the candy. Check the label on the candy wrapper or ask the attendant at the candy counter to weigh out the correct amount.
This week’s recipe is a heart healthy fish dish that would make an easy and fun couple’s cooking session.
Honey and soy salmon for two
•1 scallion, minced
•2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
•1 tablespoon rice vinegar
•1 tablespoon honey
•1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
•2 salmon fillets
•1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
•1 tablespoon olive oil
•1 zucchini, sliced
•1 red pepper, cut into thin slices
•½ red onion, cut into slices
1. Whisk scallion, soy sauce, vinegar, honey and ginger in a medium bowl until the honey is dissolved. Place salmon in a sealable plastic bag, add 3 tablespoons of the sauce and refrigerate; let marinate for 15 minutes. Reserve the remaining sauce.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a small baking pan with foil and coat with cooking spray.
3. Transfer the salmon to the pan, skinned-side down. (Discard the marinade.) Broil the salmon 4 to 6 inches from the heat source until cooked through, which takes approximately 10 minutes. (The baking time can vary greatly depending on the height of the rack in your oven. It can even take up to 20 minutes. Make sure to check the salmon is opaque all the way through before removing from heat).
4. While the salmon is cooking add olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add in the onion and sauté 1-2 minutes until tender. Add pepper and zucchini and sauté until all vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and cover with foil.
5. To toast sesame seeds, heat a small dry skillet over low heat. Add seeds and stir constantly, until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool.
6. Remove salmon from the oven and serve over vegetables. Drizzle with the reserved sauce and garnish with sesame seeds.
Rachel Werts is a fifth year senior majoring in dietetics. She works as a nutrition assistant at the Waisman Center.