FEBRUARY 2016 ;e Costco Connection 69
By Suzanne Badieozzaman
PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON declared
February “American Heart Month” to raise
awareness, give hope and eventually eliminate
heart diseases. In this spirit, here’s some heart-strengthening information.
Inflammation and heart disease
The risk: Chronic low-grade inflamma-
tion is often associated with cardiovascular
disease (CVD). Detecting the degree of inflam-
mation usually requires a C-reactive protein
(CRP) test. Registered dietitian and Costco
member Marissa Kent says, “CRP is the most
used inflammatory marker. The higher the
CRP score, the greater the presence of inflam-
mation and the higher the heart attack risk
independent of elevated cholesterol; with high
cholesterol the risk is nine times greater.”
Recent studies suggest elevated homocys-
teine (an amino acid) levels raise CVD risk by
one and a half to two times, increasing the risk
of heart attack or stroke.
The treatments: According to a
December 2011 British Journal of Nutrition
article, whole grains, vegetables, fruits and fish
are associated with lower inflammation. For
instance, when blood glucose levels roller-coaster up and down, dietary fiber helps to
normalize the inflammatory response (and
blood glucose); other fiber benefits include
reduced blood pressure, lower cholesterol and
a smaller risk of chronic diseases.
Dietary sources of folate and vitamins B6
and B12 are essential, because without them
homocysteine levels rise and stimulate the
accumulation of plaque and harden artery
walls. The American Heart Association (AHA;
heart.org) recommends “a healthy balanced
diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains,
and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.”
Five to nine servings of fruit and veggies
per day, and legumes, lean meats, fish and for-
tified grains and cereals lower homocysteine
levels and are sources of B vitamins.
Olive and canola oils are super sources of
heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, and help raise “good” high-density
lipoprotein cholesterol. Another type of good
oil is high-oleic oil, such as high-oleic sunflower oil; the high-oleic version has a profile
similar to olive oil, in that it is high in monounsaturated fat, versus the regular version.
Sodium and heart health
The risk: A small amount of sodium is
vital for many health functions, such as proper
nerve communication and muscle function.
However, excess sodium is tough on the heart,
especially when raising blood pressure.
The treatments: There are many practical ways to cut sodium. One simple trick is to
rinse canned vegetables (especially beans), as
up to 40 percent of the sodium washes away.
You can also limit salt when cooking from
scratch; half can be cut out of recipes without
affecting flavor. Instead, use stimulating spices
and herbs (such as cumin, basil, rosemary,
cilantro, paprika, turmeric and dill), lemon,
lime, hot chili peppers, garlic and onions.
At restaurants, ask the kitchen to hold
added salt (typically salt is added to salads,
meats, seafood, fries, etc.); order iced tea
instead of soda; and add lemon juice or vinaigrette to salads.
Finally, choose packaged products with
the least sodium per serving. Never rely on
taste, because while sodium chloride (table
salt) tastes salty, other forms of sodium, such as
sodium benzoate, do not; always check labels
for sodium content.
Ditching salt may sound hard, but studies
suggest that gradual sodium reduction over
eight to 12 weeks helps recalibrate the tongue
and open it up to new flavors usually buried
under salt. Fresh herbs—cilantro, basil or
mint—and heat (such as jalapeño peppers) can
be added to sandwiches and other meals for
hearty kicks of flavor and health boosts.
The risks: Smoking, stress, excess sugar
and/or alcohol consumption, dehydration, lack
of sleep and no exercise are among the behaviors that increase the risk of CVD.
The treatments: Taking a number of
steps can lead to greatly improved health.
• Get enough sleep. This is important
because less sleep means the body becomes
more stressed and produces more cortisol (a
stress hormone) and inflammation.
• Reduce added—not naturally occurring—sugar. The AHA suggests no more than
8 teaspoons of added sugar in a diet of 2,000
• Get active. Brisk walks or gardening can
be a simple way to become more active.
• Drink more water. Eight cups a day can
help prevent dehydration. Adding a squeeze of
lemon or crushed raspberries for flavor makes
water even yummier.
Simple habits can help lessen inflammation and add love to your heart. C
Suzanne Badieozzaman is a freelance writer
and nutritional consultant (suzannespractical
Reducing risks of
The Costco Connection
Costco offers many heart-healthy foods and
supplements. Smoking cessation and sleep
aids, as well as exercise equipment, are available at Costco and on Costco.com.
for your health