February Is Heart Month

— Written By

Nutrition Matters

Shelina Bonner, Family & Consumer Sciences Agent

Greene County Cooperative Extension

We are, already about to be in the second month of 2017, and it is Heart Health Month, so this is the perfect time to discuss cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is the term for several diseases which include high blood pressure, stroke, Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and others. We will address CHD, which is a leading cause of death in Americans. The best way to prevent CHD is through a healthy diet and other positive lifestyle behaviors and changes.

Risk Factors
Recent studies have shown that Americans have a high incidence of some these risk factors:
·      smoking

·      obesity

·      incidence of diabetes

·      high blood pressure

·      lack of physical activity

·      lack of monitoring blood cholesterol levels

·      low intake of vegetables and fruits

We can control some of these factors; others, we cannot. These include age and family history. All these risk factors in some way contribute to elevated blood lipids-mainly as triglycerides and cholesterol.

Blood Lipids
Blood lipids are fatty substances in the blood, including triglycerides, lipoproteins and cholesterol. Measuring blood lipids is the best predictor for risk of CHD. In general, it is healthy to have: a total cholesterol level of 200 mg/dl or less; an HDL level of at least 25 percent of total cholesterol; triglyceride level of 200 mg/dl or less.

If your blood lipid levels are within normal range, you can follow dietary recommendations in this lesson to keep them normal. If your levels are abnormal, your physician and a registered dietitian should help you to bring them into normal range by dietary changes, exercise, medications, and control of contributing conditions or diseases. Lowering blood cholesterol by one percent can give you a two percent reduction in risk of CHD.

Dietary Factors
Most people are aware that too much fat and cholesterol in their diets is not desirable for a healthy heart. Always, remember to follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, thoroughly. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans cover the ABC’s for health. ·

A = Aim for fitness

B = Build a healthy base

C = Choose sensibly

Three ways these Guidelines can help decrease your risk of CHD are by helping you:

t- lose weight if overweight;

t- control high blood pressure; and

t- lower high levels of blood cholesterol.

Enjoy this recipe that is an easy fix, delicious and healthy for you and your family members!

Sweet Potato Custard

1 C. sweet potato, cooked, mashed

1/2C. (about 2) small bananas, mashed

1 C. evaporated skim milk

2Tbsp, brown sugar, packed

2 egg yolks (or 1/3 C egg substitute), beaten

1/2   tsp salt

1/4 C. raisins

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

nonstick cooking spray, as needed

1. In medium bowl, stir together sweet potato and banana.

2. Add milk, blending well.

3. Add brown sugar, egg yolks, and salt, mixing thoroughly.

4. Spray 1-quart casserole with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer sweet potato

mixture to casserole dish.

5. Combine raisins, sugar, and cinnamon. Sprinkle over top of sweet potato


6. Bake in preheated 325 °F oven for 40-45 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.

Sweet potatoes and bananas make this low-fat custard a dessert-lover’s delight.

Nutritional Information:

Yield: 6 servings

Serving size: l/2 cup

Each serving provides:

Calories: 160

Total fat: 2 g

Saturated fat: 1 g

Cholesterol: 72 mg

Sodium: 255 mg

Total fiber: 2 g

Protein: 5 g

Carbohydrates: 32 g

Potassium: 488 mg

For additional information on the 2016 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, contact Shelina Bonner, North Carolina Cooperative Extension-Greene County at (252) 747-5831

Source: Heart Health, by the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture. (UK)

Source:  Keep the Beat-Heart Heathy Recipes from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute