A healthy heart is a loving heart

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, January 30, 2018

In February we think of Valentine’s Day, but it is also National Heart Month, reminding us to take care of our heart.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease. On average, someone dies of Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD) every 40 seconds. That is about 2,200 deaths of CVD each day.

The good news? Heart disease can often be prevented when people make healthy choices and manage their health conditions. You can make healthy changes to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Controlling and preventing risk factors is also important for people who already have heart disease.

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One of the ways to lower your risk is to get active and eat healthy. We hear about this diet and that diet, but the one that has been backed by 20 years of research is the Mediterranean Diet.

Research suggests that the benefits of following a Mediterranean-style eating pattern have been associated with reduced levels of inflammation, a risk factor for heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. This diet has been associated with a lower level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the “bad” cholesterol that’s more likely to build up deposits in your arteries. In fact, a meta-analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular deaths as well as overall chronic disease deaths.

For these reasons, most if not all major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adapt a style of eating like the Mediterranean diet for prevention of major chronic diseases.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

• Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts

• Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil

• Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods

• Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month

• Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week

• Enjoying meals with family and friends

• Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)

• Getting plenty of exercise

I will be talking more about this way of healthy eating in the months to come. For now, a quick and easy place to find out more about the Mediterranean way of eating with lots of easy recipes is online at medinsteadofmeds.com. See page 43 for one of my favorite recipes.

Jimmi Buell, Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, Polk County Center of the NC Cooperative Extension Service, teaches cooking and nutrition classes with a focus on improving health with better food choices. She can be reached at jimmi_buell@ncsu.edu or 828-894-8218.

Salmon Burgers


1 pound of salmon, skin and bones removed

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (more if you really like ginger)

½ tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

½ tablespoon Sriracha (or other hot sauce, adapt this for your heat preference)

2 – 4 tablespoons chopped green onions

A few grinds of fresh black pepper

1 egg

½ cup whole-wheat panko bread crumbs

Grapeseed, canola, or other vegetable oil for cooking the burgers


1. Process salmon, ginger, soy sauce, Sriracha, green onions, and pepper in a food processor until well blended. Place the salmon mixture in a bowl.

2. Stir in the egg and panko.

3. Make 4 patties from the mixture.

4. Refrigerate for an hour or so (optional).

5. Lightly oil a non-stick skillet.

6. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Flip and cook the other side.

7. Test internal temperature to 145º-150º F.