The Beat Goes On: Heart Health and Nutrition

Why does midlife fat settle around the waist? One theory relates to cortisol, a hormone that increases with stress. Post-menopausal women seem to have a robust cortisol response to stress. Thank goodness exercise can be a good stress reducer; keep active!

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? Lugging around excess body fat adds a major stress to the heart, but being too thin can also raise heart-health issues. Athletes who severely under-eat (such as those with anorexia) commonly develop irregular heart rhythms and have a dangerously low heart rate. Thinner is not always healthier.

? The more you exercise, the more protection you have from heart disease—to a certain extent. The benefits plateau at about 2,000 calories per week; that's the equivalent of running about four miles a day (400 calories) for five days a week, with two rest days per week. No need to get compulsive...

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The Bottom Line

Just as eating the wrong foods can be powerfully bad for your heart, eating the right foods can be powerfully good. Eat wisely to invest in an enjoyable future. If you need help creating a heart healthy sports diet, consult with your local sports dietitian.

Recipes for a Healthy Heart

Looking for inexpensive ways to add more fish to your diet? Here's one of many family-friendly recipes from the new fourth edition of Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook (April, 2008).

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Simple Salmon Patties

These salmon patties are made with canned salmon, an inexpensive source of health-protective omega-3 fat. Enjoy them with brown rice and a green vegetable for a complete meal.

  • 1 14-ounce (400 g) can pink salmon, drained and flaked (remove the skin, but keep the bones for added calcium)
  • 1 cup (70 g) crushed whole-wheat saltine crackers or bread crumbs
  • 1 egg or substitute, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup (150 g) diced pepper, green or red
  • 1/2 diced onion, preferably a sweet onion such as Vidalia
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) milk, preferably low fat
  • Lemon pepper or black pepper, as desired
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil, for cooking

Optional: 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce; dash of hot pepper sauce; 1/2 teaspoon dried dill or 2 teaspoons fresh dill

1. In a large bowl, stir together salmon, cracker or bread crumbs, egg, bell pepper, and onion. Mix in milk (and Worcestershire sauce and hot pepper sauce, as desired). Add pepper (and dill), and mix well with your hands. Lightly press the mixture into eight patties.

2. Heat oil in large saute pan on medium heat. Once oil is hot, place the patties in the pan and cook on both sides until lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings (8 patties)

Nutrition Information

  • 1,200 total calories; 300 calories per serving (2 patties)
  • 24 g carbohydrate; 27 g protein; 11 g fat (2 g omega-3)

Reprinted with permission from Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 4th Edition (2008; Human Kinetics). Available via

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