February is American Heart Month, and the American Heart Association is asking women for a favor. They'd like women — young women — to start talking about heart health. Why? Because according to Ellie Krieger, the host of Food Network's Healthy Appetite who also just so happens to be a New York Times best-selling author and registered dietitian, one in four women dies of heart disease in the U.S. today. And with risk factors like high blood pressure (oh hello, day job stress) and obesity (good to see you again, cubicle office chair) on the rise, it's more important than ever for women between the ages of 18 and 30 to maintain healthy lifestyles filled with real foods and sustainable exercise.
I'll be the first to admit, as a rather active millennial woman I had no idea I was at risk of heart disease — until I read the sobering statistics. Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women in the U.S., killing one woman every minute. Sixty-four percent of women who die suddenly from heart disease never showed signs of any symptoms. If you're on the pill or smoke, you have a 20 percent higher risk of heart disease. And now for the silver lining: if caught early enough, heart disease can be 80 percent preventable.
Great! So as an active 30-year-old woman, how do I prevent it?
Well, according to the Internet there are many, many ways. In fact, there are so many theories floating around that I began to question the validity of some. That's when I closed my multiple browsers and turned to Ellie Krieger. Not only did Krieger provide her professional opinion on each theory, she also shared a few go-to heart healthy recipes.
Krieger says: "I’d have to see the particular research on that connection. But I do know that one glass of alcohol in general, and red wine in particular, has resveratrol, and that can help prevent stroke and heart disease, so that is true. And one glass of wine is considered moderation."
My conclusion: Pass the Malbec, please.
Theory No. 2: Intense jogging can put too much stress on the body — it's healthier to jog three times a week for 20 to 40 minutes.
Krieger says: "Yes, it seems like the research is showing that more moderate exercise seems to have a more protective effect on your overall health. Point being, you don’t have to kill yourself to be healthy. You don’t have to exhaust yourself completely. If you’re doing more moderate exercise, know that you’re on the right track. And if you’re not exercising, know that it doesn’t have to be so exhausting. It should really energize you."
My conclusion: Marathon training is the worst. Moderation it is.
Krieger says: "Current research says that saturated fats should be avoided for heart health. You should certainly avoid trans fats and have only small amounts of saturated fats. While there is research coming out saying that maybe saturated fats aren’t so bad for us, the bottom line is, when deciding between olive oil and butter, keep in mind that olive oil and other healthy oils are actually protective. So even if saturated fat in the end turns out to be more neutral, you want to have that more protective effect of olive oil. Definitely use it as your go-to."
My conclusion: Weekdays were made for olive oil. Weekends were made for cheese and butter.
So in sum, it looks like there is some validity to these heart health theories, but when in doubt, it really is best to consult an expert. And if all this talk of science and olive oil made you hungry, check out two of Krieger's favorite heart healthy recipes below.
Chicken White Bean Vegetable Simmer
Get the 30-minute recipe here.
Turkey-Chili Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Check out Krieger's hearty winter recipe featured on The Daily Meal here.