How do you plan to celebrate American Heart Month?

hands holding a string of paper hearts up to the sun during sunDid you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, taking more lives each year than cancer?

Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women and that 90% of us have at least one heart disease related risk factor? I find this information disconcerting, if not downright scary. This seems like something every woman should know and act upon.

During the month of February we celebrate American Heart Month. This is an opportunity to bring awareness to a heart-healthy lifestyle and ask the question, what can I do, right now, to help prevent and even reverse heart disease?

Eating a heart-healthy diet is one step on the path to preventing heart disease. Making small changes in your daily diet can reap big health benefits.

Here are five ways to eat heart-healthy:

Limit The Salt In Your Diet

Eating a lot of salt (or sodium) can lead to high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. You can reduce the amount of salt in your diet by limiting what you add to recipes and your daily meals. A big source of the salt we consume comes from canned and processed foods. Reading labels and buying low sodium versions of your favorite foods is one way to reduce your daily intake of sodium. Another option is to make more of your meals from scratch, using fresh ingredients and herbs for flavoring.

Say Yes To Whole Grains And High Fiber Foods

Fiber helps you feel full longer and can help lower bad cholesterol, and whole grains are higher in fiber and nutrients than processed and refined foods. What should you be eating? Try whole-grain breads, high-fiber cereals (5 or more grams of fiber per serving), brown rice, wild rice, whole-grain pasta, steel-cut oatmeal and ground flaxseed. What should you be removing from your diet? Skip the white bread, frozen waffles, donuts, granola bars, high-sugar breakfast cereals, flavored oatmeal, cakes, pies and crackers.

Load Up On Fruits and Vegetables 

Fruits and veggies are low in calories and high in fiber, making them a smart choice for a heart- healthy diet. They’re a good source of the vitamins and minerals your body needs, and there are substances found in plants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease. A few tips for adding fruits and veggies to your diet include:

  • Make your veggies finger food. Wash and cut up carrots, celery, or cucumbers (use whatever vegetables you like) ahead of time and have them ready for snacking.
  • Keep fruit handy. Have a bowl of apples, oranges and bananas on the counter as a go-to healthy snack.
  • Tuck fruits and veggies into your purse or backpack. Make it easy to bring along that bag of carrot sticks or bunch of grapes.
  • Plan your meals to include more fruits and veggies. Start dinner with a fruit salad or have fresh fruit for dessert. Pick a vegetable side dish like asparagus or Brussels sprouts to go along with your grilled chicken.
  • Cook with veggies, adding them to your recipes for a boost in fiber and nutrients. Toss a cup of broccoli into your spaghetti sauce, use salsa as a topping or add veggie meatballs to that pasta dish.

Love the Good Fats

Your cholesterol levels play an important role in your heart health. There is good cholesterol (your HDL), and bad cholesterol (your LDL). Unhealthy levels of the bad cholesterol can put you at greater risk for heart disease. What can you do to help manage your cholesterol levels? Love the good fats.

Saturated and trans fats are the bad guys, the ones you want to eliminate from your diet. Unsaturated fats like monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are the good guys. How can you tell the difference? Generally, most “bad” fats are solid at room temperature. Here are a few simple ways to love the good fats:

  • Stay away from solid fats like butter, margarine, lard, bacon fat, or shortenings.
  • When food shopping, buy lean meats.
  • Make your salad more substantial by adding almonds or avocado slices – both have plenty of good fats.
  • Find new toppings to replace those with saturated and trans fats. Substitute nonfat plain yogurt for sour cream; put salsa on that baked potato; and don’t butter your bread: use a low fat fruit spread instead.
  • When cooking, replace margarine, butter or lard with healthy oils like olive, canola or sunflower oil.
  • Read the labels: it may say “reduced fat,” but is it really healthy? Look for hidden and bad fats like lard or the words “partially hydrogenated” (that’s a fancy word for trans fats). Check the amount of fat in your breakfast cereal – you might just be surprised what you find.

Include Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Your Diet

Add fish to your diet. Replacing a meat dish with a fish entrée once or twice a week is a smart way to further reduce the unhealthy fat from your diet. Certain fish have the added benefit of being high in omega-3 fatty acids, a substance that helps in the fight against bad cholesterol and works to keep your heart healthy. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, trout and herring.

So how do you plan to celebrate American Heart Month? I’m starting with a trip to my local market to pick up some fresh fruit, veggies, non-fat Greek yogurt, salmon and the list goes on…

I’m celebrating by eating heart-healthy and making it a daily habit.

Using real time data to improve the quality of our healthcare

The applause goes to IBM Research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Public Health Data Standards Consortium (PHDSC) for their collaborative efforts in using real time public health data to improve the quality of healthcare. You may all take a bow!

Working together these organizations are finding ways to tap into readily available public health information and coordinate that data with electronic health record (EHR) systems in an effort to gain a more timely understanding of the public health environment. The goal is to speed response times when faced with public health issues.

The work being done will allow health data to be rapidly accessed by local, county, state and federal agencies. Expedited data coordinated from multiple sources can help improve the effectiveness of public health programs, more effectively target health resources, positively impact quality of care and benefit the overall health system.

The effective utilization of health information can provide near real time automated reporting in the public health setting, allowing professionals to leverage the critical information needed to deal with major health issues. The way we see it… more data that is well organized and rapidly accessible means a healthier world for all of us and with the world getting smaller and smaller by the day the potential impact of shared data only magnifies.

Thanks to this smart crowd for pooling efforts, sharing information and giving the healthcare community access to real time data.

What are your thoughts on the use of real time data in the health setting?  Do you think we’ll see more collaboration in the future?

How about the use of social media to improve response times during global health crises? 

I can see the real time nature of Twitter data playing a valuable role in managing health efforts. Do you see Twitter as tool for public health? More on that in another post…

This post originally appeared on CROWDTalk

Claim What You Own

Startup or Fortune 100, experienced executive or new graduate – we can all benefit from the wisdom of Liz Strauss and her blog post – When Will You Stop to Claim All You Already Own?

Liz wrote, “Those of us who are fully engaged in building our businesses are so focused forward that we often forget to stop and take an account of what we’ve learned, gained and gathered as we’ve gotten to where we are.”

In a busy world, why is this important?

Not owning what we know, what we have achieved and how we arrived here – holds us to a past point in time that no longer reflects who we are. Liz tells us this impacts (and not in a good way) “how we talk about ourselves and what we do, how we telegraph our confidence and causes us to appear less qualified than our experience because we don’t own what we know.”

As a startup I think this is extremely important, one can quickly get wrapped up in what must be done and where we want to be that it’s easy to overlook the progress that has been made. This progress is critical when communicating growth and value as a startup, defining your position in the market and evaluating next steps – a startup cannot remain a startup forever – own your evolution.

I challenge all of us to think about our accomplishments, what they mean both personally and professionally and own what you know.