HOTFLASHES | February 2024

Top Five Steps for Heart Health

During the month of February, we see lots of content about heart health and statistics about heart disease and heart attacks. We all know we need to do better for our heart, but sometimes life is hectic, and it’s hard. In this article, we’ll go over our top five things you can do to make a huge impact on your heart health (and overall health).

  • Eat heart healthy. Most of us know eating healthy is an important part of taking care of our health, but what exactly does a heart healthy diet look like? When eating for your heart, it’s important to stick to the basics and avoid fad diets and trends. A heart healthy diet consists of lots of fruits and vegetables, healthy wholegrains, healthy fats, and limited salt and sugar. While it sounds easy, it’s often harder to put in practice. If you struggle with eating healthy, focus on changing just a couple meals a week or one or two simple swaps at first and slowly increase healthy swaps.
  • Move your body. Exercise is a crucial part of a healthy heart. There’s just not a way to get around it. Adults are recommended to get 150 minutes of moderate level activity each week, and while that may sound like a lot, it’s less than 22 minutes per day. If you’re not getting any physical activity start out small. Ten minutes of walking a day is always better than nothing.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking just isn’t beneficial for any aspect of your health, and it’s especially bad for your heart and lungs. Quitting smoking (or never starting) is so beneficial for your health, and while it can be difficult to quit, there is help available and ultimately, all that effort is so worth it.
  • Understand and control your cholesterol levels. Cholesterol, or a fatty substance that moves around your body through your blood, is a key to understanding and impacting heart health as well. Cholesterol is something your body produces naturally, and it’s important for your body to function. However, too much for the “bad cholesterol” (LdL) can clog your arteries and create a build up, called plaques. This leads to blockages in your arteries and can increased your risk of heart attack or stroke. The next time you go to the doctor, pay attention to your cholesterol levels (found through a routine blood exam) and ask questions about what you can do to get it (or keep it) in check.
  • Understand and control your blood pressure. Additionally, your blood pressure is another component of a healthy heart. When your blood pressure, or the pressure of your blood in the walls of your arteries, is too high, it can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke as well. Your blood pressure is usually shown as two numbers, one over the other. The top number is your systolic reading, or the measurement of the pressure in the arteries when your heart contracts and pumps blood. The lower number is the diastolic reading, or the measurement of the pressure in the arteries when your heart muscle relaxes and refills with blood. While a blood pressure reading is usually part of any doctor’s visit, you can also check your blood pressure at home or in the pharmacy section of many stores. If your numbers are too high, talk to your doctor about what you can do to control them.

Finding Time to Exercise in a Busy Season

As we discussed in the article above, exercise is an important part of heart health, as well as overall health. However, all of our lives are busy, and it can seem so hard to fit exercise into everything else we have to get done each day. In this article, we’ll go over some of our top tips for fitting a workout into any schedule.

  • Plan ahead and schedule it. When you have a busy life, if you’re going to exercise, you need to plan it. Look at your schedule and find the best times to fit some movement in and schedule it on your planner or phone, so you don’t forget. Once you have a plan in place, make it easy on yourself by making sure you have easy access to your workout clothes when you need them.
  • Give yourself 10 minutes, three times a day. If when you look at your schedule, you don’t know how to fit in a 20 or 30 minute workout session, see if you can find 10 minute increments of time instead. You can walk, do calisthenics, or a 10 minute YouTube video. Maybe when you get up in the morning, the first 10 minutes of your lunch break, and right when you get home before you start dinner. Whatever the time slots are, it still counts for a full workout session, even if it’s spread throughout the day.
  • Do the little things. While exercise and designated workout sessions are important, it’s also important to fit regular movement into your life to become a more active person. Think taking the stairs instead of the elevator, looking for a parking spot farther away from the store, do a few jumping jacks while waiting for your coffee, do a pushup or sit up every time you find yourself checking your phone, etc.
  • Find a workout buddy. Sometimes when you are trying to find a way to exercise, external help can be a motivating factor. It’s also a way to fit in some time to socialize into a busy schedule. Text a friend or family member and ask them if they’d like to walk with you a few times a week (and schedule these times) or meet you at the gym each morning. You can exercise and get some quality time together in the process.
  • Let yourself experiment. Starting a new workout regimen can be tough, especially if you weren’t really active before. Don’t let yourself get discouraged easily and let yourself experiment when it comes to different types of workouts. Maybe running isn’t for you, but you love yoga. Don’t be afraid to try new things and go with what works.
  • Incentivize yourself. If nothing else works, use rewards to motivate you and help you prioritize workout time. If you love a certain TV show, only allow yourself to watch it when you’re walking on the treadmill. Or if there’s a big ticket item you really want, pay yourself for each time you workout until you have enough to purchase it. Even small snacks or coffees can be an incentive if you’re otherwise eating a healthy diet and are generally burning more calories than your reward.


Slow-Cooker Chicken and White Bean Stew


  • 1 pound dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • 6 cups unsalted chicken broth
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 (4 ounce) Parmesan cheese rind plus 2/3 cup grated Parmesan, divided
  • 2 bone-in chicken breasts (1 pound each)
  • 4 cups chopped kale
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves


  1. Combine beans, broth, onion, carrots, rosemary and Parmesan rind in a 6-quart slow cooker. Top with chicken. Cover and cook on Low until the beans and vegetables are tender, 7 to 8 hours.
  2. Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board; let stand until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Shred the chicken, discarding bones.
  3. Return the chicken to the slow cooker and stir in kale. Cover and cook on High until the kale is tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper; discard the Parmesan rind. Serve the stew drizzled with oil and sprinkled with Parmesan and parsley.