February is National Heart Month - Calculate your risk of a heart attack in the next 10 years

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February is National Heart Month - heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.   Among its many resources, the American Heart Association offers the Check. Change. Control. Calculator that assesses risk of a heart attack for people between 40 and 75 years old in the next 10 years.  You'll need to know your total cholesterol, LDL level, HDL, and blood pressure to complete.   In my undergraduate nutrition classes I would provide several different and diverse profiles of individuals in this age range for students to use the calculator to estimate risk and to discuss ways to reduce risk and manage modifiable risk factors.   We were fortunate to have a cardiologist come to the class on heart disease to share and address questions - he even showed videos of cardiac cauterizations with blockages.  Students were really engaged!  He encouraged students to get baseline lipids if they hadn't already, especially if they had a family history of heart disease.  Spotlight B in Nutrition for a Changing World addresses heart disease risk factors and heart health and helps students interpret their "numbers".   

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As per the 2021 Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association with dietary guidance to improve cardi..., poor diet quality is strongly associated with elevated cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality.   Evidence-based dietary pattern guidance to promote cardiometabolic health includes the following: (1) adjust energy intake and expenditure to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight; (2) eat plenty and a variety of fruits and vegetables; (3) choose whole grain foods and products; (4) choose healthy sources of protein (mostly plants; regular intake of fish and seafood; low-fat or fat-free dairy products; and if meat or poultry is desired, choose lean cuts and unprocessed forms); (5) use liquid plant oils rather than tropical oils and partially hydrogenated fats; (6) choose minimally processed foods instead of ultra-processed foods; (7) minimize the intake of beverages and foods with added sugars; (8) choose and prepare foods with little or no salt; (9) if you do not drink alcohol, do not start; if you choose to drink alcohol, limit intake; and (10) adhere to this guidance regardless of where food is prepared or consumed.

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About the Author
Jamie Pope, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Assistant Professor of Practice in Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University, has worked in the areas of obesity research, health promotion, heart disease prevention, and since 2000 teaching introductory nutrition. Beyond the classroom, she adapted portions of her nutrition courses to produce a Massive Open Online Course attracting more than 175,000 participants from around the world. This experience earned Jamie an Innovation in Teaching award from the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. She is the co-author of the textbook entitled Nutrition for a Changing World. Now in its second edition, the text is in use in over 140 universities across the U.S. and the recipient of a 2020 Textbook Excellence Award. Most recently she developed and produced an audio course for Learn25.com (Nutrition 101: Understanding the Science and Practice of Eating Well) that is also featured on platforms like Apple Books and Audible. Jamie holds a Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition and post graduate work in Health Psychology. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has authored or contributed to numerous scientific and popular press publications. Jamie also held several corporate positions, serving as nutrition consultant and media representative.