Preventable Heart Disease

By Charlyn Fargo

December 18, 2015 6 min read

Here's the bad news: Cardiovascular disease is the cause of one out of every three deaths in the United States, according to new statistics from the American Heart Association. And both in the U.S. and around the world, cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer. The new figures were published in the journal Circulation.

But there is good news as well: It is clear that lifestyle is a powerful weapon in fighting heart disease. Five preventable risk factors — high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and smoking — account for 50 percent of deaths from cardiovascular disease among adults aged 45-79 years old. The numbers on smoking, diet and physical activity show potential to prevent and manage the conditions.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 500,000 individuals in the 45-79 age group and found if the five risk factors were eliminated, 50 percent of heart disease deaths among women and 45 percent among men could have been prevented, according to the Annals of Internal Medicine, Aug., 2015.

"We need to maintain our vigor and resolve in promoting good cardiovascular health through lifestyle and recognition and treatment of risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and smoking," said Mark Creager, director of the Heart and Vascular Center at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, in a press release with the American Heart Association. "We've made progress in the fight against cardiovascular disease, but the battle is not won."

Globally, 31 percent of all deaths are from cardiovascular disease, with 80 percent occurring in low- and middle-income countries as of 2013. In the United States, cardiovascular diseases killed 801,000 people, heart disease killed 370,000, and stroke killed nearly 129,000. Additionally, of the 750,000 people in the United States who had a heart attack, 116,000 died.

The researchers said there have been improvements in risk factors during recent years, including strides made to reduce smoking, increase physical activity, and change diet in order to bring body weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar under control.

Despite some progress and increased awareness, 69 percent of adults and 32 percent of children in the United States are overweight or obese, one out of three adults said they engage in no physical activity outside of work, 43 percent of Americans had cholesterol levels that are concerning or high, and 33 percent of adults had high blood pressure.

The bottom line is: Make health your priority in 2016. Get a plan for your workout, lose some weight if you need to, stop smoking, put away the salt shaker and processed foods, and eat those fruits, veggies, whole grains and low fat dairy and meat. This can be your year to reverse the statistics.

Q and A

Q: Is bee pollen a healthful ingredient?

A: Bee pollen, which collects on the legs and bodies of bees, is believed to be a nutritious substance because it contains vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, fats and enzymes. Bee pollen is used orally as well as topically to promote diuresis, stimulate appetite, improve stamina and athletic performance and aid in weight loss and the control of PMS, diarrhea and constipation. However, there is scant evidence that it is effective for any of these conditions, except for PMS. Bee pollen alone is not used to treat PMS — it's typically used in a combination with royal jelly and other ingredients. Researcher supports that ingesting bee pollen for up to 30 days is probably safe, but pregnant and lactating women should avoid it because it may stimulate uterine contractions. There is insufficient information about how it may affect the infant when passed in breast milk. Those who suffer from pollen allergies should avoid bee pollen since there is no way to determine the origin of the pollen. Additionally, bee pollen may increase the effects of warfarin (Coumadin). — Environmental Nutrition, December 2015.


In the New Year, let's make it our goal to cook at home more often. It's healthier, cheaper and is great for the family. Here's an easy recipe to get you started. It's from "The Healthy Living Cookbook," published by the YMCA in Jacksonville, IL.

Tequila Lime Chicken

3 whole or 6 split boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/2 cup gold tequila

1 cup lime juice (5-6 limes)

1/2 cup orange juice (2 oranges)

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper

1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Combine tequila, juices, chili powder, jalapeno, garlic, salt and pepper in a plastic bag or container. Mix well and add chicken breasts. Refrigerate overnight or at least 3-4 hours. Heat grill and brush the rack with oil to prevent the chicken from sticking. Remove the chicken from the marinade and season with salt and pepper. Discard marinade. Grill for 5 minutes or until browned. Turn chicken and cook for another 10 minutes or until a thermometer reaches 165 degrees. Remove from heat, cover tightly and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Serve hot. Serves 6.

Per serving: 210 calories, 28 grams protein, 6 grams carbohydrate, 3.5 grams fat, 1 grams fiber, 720 milligrams sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Nutrition Rd. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: Peter Lindberg

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