The number one killer of women is heart disease. That’s you and me. It surprises me that only about half of women realize this. The most recent data from Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows that over 292,000 women died in 2009 from heart disease. That’s a huge number. But it’s a number you and I can help control. In honor of February being American Heart Month, I want to focus on one way to do it.
Diet is a great way to reduce our risk of heart disease. Yup, you can practically eat your way out of being at high risk. One way is to decrease the amount of meat that you eat. In a new large-scale population study published in the March issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition*, researchers studied over 44,000 people and found that those who were vegetarian (didn’t eat meat products, such as red meat, fish and poultry) were a third less likely to be hospitalized or die from heart disease. An added bonus: these same individuals were also skinnier and had lower cholesterol and blood pressure (all three are also risk factors for heart disease, by the way).
Radically changing your diet though is tough, even for those of us who are truly motivated. If you regularly eat meat (I’m sticking with their definition above: red meat, fish and poultry), then consider making changes slowly. Beans, legumes and vegetable-based dishes are really tasty and easy to make. Perhaps one night per week can be meat-less to start. Fortunately, there are many resources to help you figure out what to make for dinner tonight. You can search the many blogs with vegetarian-based recipes, browse shelves of vegetarian cookbooks or go to one of the growing number of vegetarian or vegan restaurants out there to taste what chefs are coming up with.
A heart-healthy lifestyle starts with just one step. Choose a veggie burger tonight instead of hamburger. Lower risk is just a heartbeat away.
*Crowe F, Appleby PN, Travis RC, Key TJ. Risk of hospitalization or death from ischemic heart disease among British vegetarians and nonvegetarians: results from the EPIC-Oxford cohort study. Am J of Clin Nutr. Published ahead of print January 30, 2013.
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