Love Your Heart

By Jennifer Nicole Lee

Some of you maybe asking, “Why care about the heart? I just want to be able to fit into my bikini and look good this summer”. Well in order to look good on the outside we must also take care of ourselves on the inside.

Information on the “good old’ ticker”
A sedentary (inactive) lifestyle is one of the top risk factors for heart disease. Fortunately, it's a risk factor that you can do something about. Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, has many benefits. It can:

• Strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system.
• Improve your circulation and help your body use oxygen better.
• Improve your heart failure symptoms.
• Increase energy levels so you can do more activities without becoming tired or short of breath.
• Increase endurance.
• Lower blood pressure.
• Improve muscle tone and strength.
• Improve balance and joint flexibility.
• Strengthen bones.
• Help reduce body fat and help you reach a healthy weight.
• Help reduce stress, tension, anxiety and depression.
• Boost self-image and self-esteem.
• Improve sleep.
• Make you feel more relaxed and rested.
• Make you look fit and feel healthy.

I see that you are all sold on the benefits of living a heart healthy lifestyle. And now you are asking me, “Okay, JNL! How Do I Get Started?”

It’s a lot simpler than you would ever believe!

First of all always check with your doctor first before starting an exercise program. Your doctor can help you find a program that matches your level of fitness and physical condition. Here are some questions to ask:

• How much exercise can I do each day?
• How often can I exercise each week?
• What type of exercise should I do?
• What type of activities should I avoid?
• Should I take my medication(s) at a certain time around my exercise schedule?
• Do I have to take my pulse while exercising?

Three Basic Types of Exercise
Ready to start exercising? Great! But for basic heart health, I am going to share with you the types of exercise that are the best.

Exercise can be divided into three basic types:

1. Stretching or the slow lengthening of the muscles. Stretching the arms and legs before and after exercising helps prepare the muscles for activity and helps prevent injury and muscle strain. Regular stretching also increases your range of motion and flexibility.

2. Cardiovascular or aerobic is steady physical activity using large muscle groups. This type of exercise strengthens the heart and lungs and improves the body's ability to use oxygen. Aerobic exercise has the most benefits for your heart. Over time, aerobic exercise can help decrease your heart rate and blood pressure and improve your breathing (since your heart won't have to work as hard during exercise).

3. Strengthening exercises are repeated muscle contractions (tightening) until the muscle becomes tired. For people with heart failure, many strengthening exercises are not recommended. (See below)

JNL’s Examples of Heart Healthy Aerobic Exercises
Plain and simple, aerobic exercises include: walking, jogging, jumping rope, bicycling (stationary or outdoor), cross-country skiing, skating, rowing and low-impact aerobics or water aerobics.
The suggested frequency of exercise depends on your fitness level and goals.
In general, to achieve maximum benefits, you should gradually work up to an aerobic session lasting 20 to 30 minutes, at least three to four times a week. Exercising every other day will help you start a regular aerobic exercise schedule. I recommend working up to exercising on most days of the week. While the more exercise you can do the better, any amount of exercise is beneficial to your health.

What’s the #1 Killer of Women in America?
Let's face it. One in three women get heart disease. Most of us just don't want to know the true state of our hearts, according to recent surveys by “Go Red For Women”. When we realize that heart disease continues to be the No. 1 killer of women in America, there is something we can do about it.
The fact is, it's essential to each one of us that we know our individual risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Our hearts are in our hands--and by seeing your healthcare provider and getting a blood test and blood pressure test we can save them.

Eating right is a powerful way to reduce or even eliminate some heart disease risk factors. Adopting a heart- healthy nutrition strategy can help reduce total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar, and reduce body weight.

To reduce your risk of heart disease, try these tips.

• Increase your intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes.
• Limit fat intake. When you use added fat, use fats high in mono- and polyunsaturates only.
• Eat a variety -- and just the right amount -- of foods high in protein. Commonly eaten protein foods (red meat, dairy products) are among the main culprits in increasing heart disease risk. By balancing animal, fish and vegetable sources of protein, you can reduce your risk.
• Limit intake of cholesterol.
• Eat complex carbohydrates (such as whole-grain bread, rice, pasta) and limit simple carbohydrates (such as regular soda, sugar, sweets).
• Eat small but more meals throughout the day (for example, eating 5 to 6 mini-meals).
• Reduce salt intake.
• Exercise regularly.
• Drink 32 to 64 ounces of water daily (unless you are fluid restricted).

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women over 40 years old, especially after menopause.

Once a woman reaches the age of 50, (about the age of natural menopause), the risk for heart disease increases dramatically. In young women who have undergone early or surgical menopause, the risk for heart disease is also higher, especially when combined with other risk factors such as:

• Diabetes.
• Smoking.
• High blood pressure.
• High blood cholesterol, especially high LDL or "bad" cholesterol.
• Obesity.
• Lack of exercise.

JNL’s 101 on Heart Disease Symptoms-Be Prepared and Know How to Recognize the Signs!
Coronary artery disease, heart attack -- each type of heart disease has different symptoms, although many heart problems have similar symptoms. The symptoms you experience depend on the type and severity of your heart condition. Learn to recognize your symptoms and the situations that cause them. Call your doctor if you begin to have new symptoms or if they become more frequent or severe.

Coronary Artery Disease
The most common symptom is agina. Angina can be described as a discomfort, heaviness, pressure, aching, burning, fullness, squeezing or painful feeling in your chest. It can be mistaken for indigestion or heartburn. Angina is usually felt in the chest, but may also be felt in the shoulders, arms, neck, throat, jaw or back.

Other symptoms that can occur with coronary artery disease include:

• Shortness of breath
• Palpitations (irregular heart beats, skipped beats in your chest)
• A faster heartbeat
• Weakness or dizziness
• Nausea
• Sweating

During a heart attack, symptoms typically last 30 minutes or longer and are not relieved by rest or oral medications. Initial symptoms can start as a mild discomfort that progress to significant pain.
Some people have a heart attack without having any symptoms (a "silent" MI). A silent MI can occur among all people, though it occurs more often among diabetics.

If you think you are having a heart attack, or one of your loved ones, DO NOT DELAY. Call for emergency help at 911. Immediate treatment of a heart attack is very important to lessen the amount of damage to your heart.

When symptoms of arrhythmias are present, they may include:

• Shortness of breath.
• Chest discomfort.
• Weakness or fatigue (feeling very tired).
• Palpitations (a feeling of skipped heart beats, fluttering or "flip-flops," or feeling that your heart is "running away").
• Pounding in your chest.
• Dizziness or feeling light-headed.
• Fainting.

Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial what? That’s what I said after my dad was diagnosed with this. Let me fill you in: AF is a type of arrhythmia. Most people with AF experience one or more of the following symptoms:

• Heart palpitations (a sudden pounding, fluttering, or racing feeling in the heart).
• Lack of energy; tired.
• Dizziness (feeling faint or light-headed).
• Chest discomfort (pain, pressure, or discomfort in the chest).
• Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing during activities of daily living).
• Some patients with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms. Sometimes these episodes are briefer.
• Heart Valve Disease
• Symptoms of Heart valve disease can include:
• Shortness of breath and/or difficulty catching your breath. You may notice this most when you are active (doing your normal daily activities) or when you lie down flat in bed.
• Weakness or dizziness.
• Discomfort in your chest. You may feel a pressure or weight in your chest with activity or when going out in cold air.
• Palpitations (this may feel like a rapid heart rhythm, irregular heartbeat, skipped beats or a flip-flop feeling in your chest).

Okay, so we know the medical stuff. Its time to switch to the funner topic of FOOD!

Heart Healthy Foods to Eat! Yum!
From asparagus to sweet potatoes to a robust cabernet (YES, a glass of red wine once in a while!) -- Every bite (or sip) of heart-healthy foods delivers a powerful dose of phytonutrients that prevent and repair damage to cells. That's the essence of preventing heart disease.

There really is an abundance of fruits and vegetables in many colors, shapes, sizes that are good for your heart. You can definitely reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by eating these foods every day."

Indeed, fresh produce provide the cornerstone for a heart-healthy diet because they help wipe out free radicals in the bloodstream, protecting blood vessels.

This is what I call "the whole-foods diet. You want everything to be in its natural form, as it comes from the ground, the less processed the better.

Whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts, fatty fish, and teas are just as important -- offering all sorts of complex heart-protective phytonutrients.

JNL’s Top 26 Heart-Healthy Foods
Here is my list of the "best of the best" heart-healthy foods! Enjoy!
The foods listed here are all top-performers in protecting your heart and blood vessels. We've also got menu ideas -- so you can easily bring heart-healthy foods into your daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

1. Salmon
Omega-3 fatty acids.
Grill salmon with a yummy rub or marinade. Save a chunk to chop for a pasta or salad later on.

2. Flaxseed (ground)
Omega-3 fatty acids; fiber, phytoestrogens.
Ground flaxseed hides easily in all sorts of foods -- yogurt parfaits, morning cereal, homemade muffins, or cookies.

3. Oatmeal
Omega-3 fatty acids; magnesium; potassium; folate; niacin; calcium; soluble fiber.
Top hot oatmeal with fresh berries. Oatmeal-and-raisin cookies are a hearty treat.

4. Black or Kidney Beans
B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate; magnesium; omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; soluble fiber.
Give soup or salad a nutrient boost -- stir in some beans.

5. Almonds
Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols.
Mix a few almonds (and berries) into low-fat yogurt, trail mix, or fruit salads.

6. Walnuts
Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; folate; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols.
Walnuts add flavorful crunch to salads, pastas, cookies, muffins, even pancakes.
Catechins and reservatrol (flavonoids).

7. Toast your good health! A glass of red wine could improve "good" HDL cholesterol.

8. Tuna
Omega-3 fatty acids; folate; niacin.
Here's lunch: Salad greens, fresh fruit, canned tuna. Keep "Salad Spritzer" – a light dressing -- in your office fridge.

9. Tofu
Niacin; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium.
Tasty tofu is easy: Thinly slice "firm" tofu, marinate several hours, grill or stir-fry.

10. Brown rice
B-complex vitamins; fiber; niacin; magnesium, fiber.
Microwavable brown rice makes a quick lunch. Stir in a few chopped veggies (broccoli, carrots, spinach).

11. Soy milk
Isoflavones (a flavonoid); B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate, calcium; magnesium; potassium; phytoestrogens.
Soy milk is great over oatmeal or whole-grain cereal. Or, make a smoothie with soy milk.

12. Blueberries
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); anthocyanin (a flavonoid); ellagic acid (a polyphenol); vitamin C; folate; calcium, magnesium; potassium; fiber.
Cranberries, strawberries, raspberries are potent, too -- for trail mixes, muffins, salads!

13. Carrots
Alpha-carotene (a carotenoid); fiber.
Baby carrots are sweet for lunch. Sneak shredded carrots into spaghetti sauce or muffin batter.

14. Spinach
Lutein (a carotenoid); B-complex vitamins; folate; magnesium; potassium; calcium; fiber.
Pick spinach (not lettuce) for nutrient-packed salads and sandwiches.

15. Broccoli
Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); Vitamins C and E; potassium; folate; calcium; fiber.
Chop fresh broccoli into store-bought soup. For a veggie dip, try hummus (chickpeas).

16. Sweet potato
Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); vitamins A, C, E; fiber.
Microwave in a zip-lock baggie for lunch. Eat au naturale, or with pineapple bits.

17. Red bell peppers
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.
Rub with olive oil, and grill or oven-roast until tender. Delicious in wraps, salads, sandwiches.

18. Asparagus
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; fiber.
Grill or steam slightly, then dress with olive oil and lemon. It's a pretty side dish.

19. Oranges
Beta-cryptoxanthin, beta- and alpha-carotene, lutein (carotenoids) and flavones (flavonoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.

20. Got orange juice? Check out the new nutrient-packed blends.

21. Tomatoes
Beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.
For a flavor twist, try oil-packed tomatoes in sandwiches, salads, pastas, pizzas.

22. Acorn squash
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium; fiber.
Baked squash is comfort food on a chilly day. Serve with sautéed spinach, pine nuts, raisins.

23. Cantaloupe
Alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.
A fragrant ripe cantaloupe is perfect for breakfast, lunch, potluck dinners. Simply cut and enjoy!

24. Papaya
Beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein (carotenoids); Vitamins C and E; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium.
Serve papaya salsa with salmon: Mix papaya, pineapple, scallions, garlic, fresh lime juice, salt and black pepper.

25. Dark chocolate
Reservatrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids).
A truffle a day lowers blood pressure, but choose 70% or higher cocoa content.

26. Tea
Catechins and flavonols (flavonoids).
Make sun tea: Combine a clear glass jar, several tea bags, and hours of sunshine

So there you have it, your total update on how to live life with a super healthy heart. Remember that nutrition and exercise compliment each other, and help you to live a whole, healthy lifestyle!

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at
And also visit my websites. www.FitnessModelProgram. and also


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