LE: What is your diet like?
|About 6.7 million American women have heart disease.
One in three women dies of this condition, which can
also lead to disability and a significantly reduced quality
of life. In 2002, heart disease killed 356,000 women-more
than the number who lost their lives to stroke, lung
cancer, breast cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease combined. Unfortunately, very few women are aware
of these facts or take their risk of heart disease seriously.
To make women more aware of the dangers of heart disease, the National Heart,
Lung, and Blood Institute and partner organizations are sponsoring a national
campaign called The Heart Truth. Its goal is to give women a personal and urgent
wake-up call about their risk of heart disease. While aimed primarily at women
aged 40 to 60-the time of life when a woman's risk of heart disease begins to
rise-the campaign's messages are also important for younger women, as heart disease
develops gradually and can begin as early as the teenage years.
One of the main messages of The Heart Truth is that women can reduce their risk
factors and improve their heart health, even if they already have heart disease.
It is never too late to take action, and the campaign offers
a wide range of suggestions on how to take charge of one's heart health. The
campaign's website features moving stories of real women living with heart disease,
along with revealing surveys and statistics about the incidence of this condition.
Corporate partners and their efforts to educate the public are also included.
(For more information, visit www.hearttruth.gov.)
JS: My meals are heart healthy. I love berries and other antioxidant
rich foods. Berries contain phytonutrients that help with a
variety of age-related health conditions. Also, the antioxidants
they contain help to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol,
making it less likely to stick to the walls of your arteries
and promote arterosclerosis. My family grows organic food
at home, so we always have fresh fruits and vegetables grown
without pesticides. I rarely eat red meat; it's usually chicken
or fish with lots of veggies. I try to keep my sodium intake
low, too. Once in a while I'll indulge, but even then it's
in moderation. I also eat lots of nuts, especially pistachios.
LE: What's so special about pistachios?
JS: Pistachios are actually a very healthy nut. They contain
predominantly monounsaturated fat as well as polyunsaturated
fat, which fits in well with a heart-healthy diet. They are
high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in saturated fat. Pistachios
are cholesterol free and have significant amounts of magnesium
and arginine, which may help to lower blood pressure, and a
high level of betasitosterol, which can help lower cholesterol.
They are also a good source of fiber. My children and I eat
them often for a healthy snack.
LE: Do you exercise regularly? What role
does this play in heart health?
JS: I exercise when I can,
but I had back surgery a while back, so I have to be careful.
I love to walk at a fast pace, and I also do Pilates, stretching,
weights, and isometric movements. Exercise is very important
for heart health. You don't need fancy machines just make exercise
a part of your life. I'm constantly moving and it keeps my
heart healthy. There are plenty of studies showing that exercise
improves cholesterol profiles, and it keeps your blood pressure
in check, too. If only more people would commit to even a modest
exercise program, it would really put a dent in the heart disease
LE: If you had to pick the top three ways to prevent
heart disease in women, what would they be?
JS: Nutrition, aerobic exercise, and monitoring your condition
so you can correct minor things before they become more serious.
Good nutrition is essential for maintaining the health of your
cardiovascular system. Fatty fish such as salmon are rich in
omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and help to
improve your blood pressure and cholesterol profile. Olives
contain high levels of monounsaturated fats that promote heart
health. And, of course, you need a full spectrum of vitamins
and minerals to ensure that your body gets enough'antioxidants
and other nutrients to fight free radicals and maximize your
Even if you don't have heart disease, good nutrition and exercise
will help you. Stress is also a huge factor in the health of
your heart. Traditionally, it was believed that men had more
stress, but like many women today, I have a career, plus I'm
a mother and wife, so I have three stresses. Often women are
more stressed than men because of these multiple responsibilities.
LE: Nuts were once considered bad for the heart because of
their fat content. Now we know that they're good for the heart.
What other myths are getting in the way of heart health for
JS: There are a lot of myths out there about heart health.
You need to address the fact that obesity affects your heart,
and if you tax the organ too much with excess body weight,
you may die sooner. Your body is like a car-if you take good
care of it, it will last longer. So make sure that your body
is running smoothly and don't put bad things into it. I believe
that everything in moderation works well. While you have to
watch the salt content, nuts contain good fats, and they taste
great. It's good to get kids into eating themthey are much
healthier than candy.
|Heart Healthy Pistachios
In recent years, scientists have come to realize that
it is not fat per se that influences the risk of heart
disease, but rather the type of fat consumed. In 2002,
the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine
established a dietary fat goal of 20-35% of total calories,
higher than the previous upper limit of 30%. Its report
also recommends minimizing saturated fats in favor of
monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Pistachios fit the bill nicely, even compared to other
nuts.' Naturally cholesterol free, a one-ounce serving
contains 3.9 grams of linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated
omega-6 fatty acid, and only 1.5 grams of saturated fat,
along with 6 grams of protein and 7.9 grams of carbohydrate.
As a complex plant food, pistachios contain many other
bioactive compounds that have card ioprotective effects.
They provide significant amounts of magnesium and potassium,
along with a high level of beta-sitosterol, one of several
plant sterols that lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein)?
They also contain 2.9 grams of fiber and are a good source
of beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. The vitamin
E that pistachios supply is 89% gamma tocopherol.
Nuts' beneficial effects on cholesterol are well established,''
and unpublished research extends these benefits to pistachios.'
In an eight-week crossover study, 20 subjects consumed
either a diet with 20% of calories from pistachios or
a diet with the same 20% of calories derived from common
:snack foods for four weeks. The groups then switched
diets. At the study's conclusion, the pistachio group
had significantly reduced levels of total cholesterol
and LDL. In addition, their HDL (beneficial high-density
lipoprotein) rose and their triglycerides decreased,
though not by statistically significant amounts. No positive
changes were recorded in the group consuming snack foods.
Pistachios thus are a favorable addition to a heart-healthy
To learn more about the California Pistachio Commission
and Jane Seymour's note cards, go to www.pistachios.org