Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women. In fact, more women die from heart disease than from all forms of cancer combined.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attacks and stroke. When blood pressure is too high, the heart works harder than it should. Other risk factors for developing heart disease include cigarette smoking, high blood cholesterol, being overweight, physical inactivity and diabetes. The more risk factors that you have, the greater your risk. You can reduce your risk by making a few changes to your lifestyle and diet:

• Eat for heart health. Your diet should include a variety of foods from all food groups: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meats. Reducing total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol is key to heart-healthy eating. You can reduce saturated fat by removing skin from poultry, choosing extra-lean meats and switching to low-fat dairy.

Replace unhealthy fats with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats like olive, canola and peanut oil. Try margarines with no trans fats, no-fat or low-fat salad dressings and sandwich spreads.

• Lose weight. If you are overweight, you are at risk for heart disease. Weight loss can improve your blood pressure and blood cholesterol and decrease your chances of developing diabetes. To take off the pounds, go beyond a diet and make permanent changes to your eating habits. For example, eat five fruits and vegetables each day, drink three glasses of skim milk each day, eat three servings of fish per week, and eat three servings of whole grains each day.

• Be physically active. Don’t forget the exercise. Even low to moderate activity, if done regularly, can help reduce blood pressure and control diabetes. Dancing, yard work, housework, gardening, walking, biking, swimming or aerobics can help burn calories, tone muscle and control appetite. Try one or more of these activities every day.

• Use less salt. Most of the sodium in our diet comes from processed foods and table salt. Check labels for the amount of sodium in each serving. Many experts advise a total daily sodium intake of about 2,400 milligrams. Throw out the salt shaker and try seasoning foods with herbs, spices and lemon juice. Check with your physician for a specific recommendation for salt (or sodium) level.

Tracey Shaffer, RD, LD, is a Hy-Vee dietitian at the Blue Springs location. The information provided should not be construed as professional medical advice. Email her at tshaffer@hy-vee.com.


Grilled Tuna with Chickpea and Spinach Salad

Serves 4

1 Tbsp olive or canola oil

1 Tbsp garlic, minced (about 2-3 cloves)

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp oregano, minced (or 1 tsp. dried)

12 oz. tuna steaks, cut into 4 portions (3 oz. each)

For salad:

½ can (15 oz) low-sodium chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

½ bag (10 oz) leaf spinach, rinsed and dried

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 medium tomato, rinsed and cut into wedges

⅛ tsp salt

⅛ tsp ground black pepper

Preheat grill pan or oven broiler (with rack 3 inches from heat source) on high temperature. Combine oil, garlic, lemon juice, and oregano, and brush over tuna steaks. Marinate for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine all salad ingredients. (Salad can be made up to 2 hours in advance and refrigerated.) Grill or broil tuna on high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork (to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees F). Serve one tuna steak over 1 cup of mixed salad.