Valentine’s Day – The Heart of the Matter

Valentine’s Day has many of us thinking of matters of the heart, but it might be a good time to consider your heart health and assess how healthy your heart actually is.

While heart disease remains one of the leading causes of death of men and women in Ireland, and worldwide, warning signs are not always obvious.

Prioritise your heart, and the hearts of your loved ones, this Valentine’s Day, by being proactive about your heart health and supporting your loved ones to do the same.

 

Do you know your numbers? If you don’t know any of the readings below, we encourage you to make an appointment with your GP to get informed and take control of your heart health.

Blood Pressure: The ideal is 140/90 mmHg or below. Higher levels increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Total Cholesterol: Levels of five or above increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Weight: Carrying excess weight can increase your risk of heart disease. Did you know that if your Body Mass Index (BMI) is above 25, losing 5-10% of your starting weight can reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol?

Waist Size: Carrying most of our weight around our middle can increase our risk of heart disease and stroke. For men, aim for a waist circumference of less than 94cm, and for women, aim for less than 80cm. Note – measure about an inch above your belly button.

 

80% of Heart Disease and Stroke Can Be Prevented

A risk factor is anything that raises a person’s chance of developing heart disease and stroke. There are two types of risk factors, those you cannot change, e.g. age and family history, and thankfully those you can change, e.g. blood pressure, cholesterol and physical activity. All of the risk factors above are in our control and 80% of heart disease and stroke can be prevented by being proactive and making the necessary lifestyle changes.

 

Listen To Your Heart

If you would like more information about risk factors or support on taking care of your heart health, Croí’s FREE telephone helpline, Heartlink West, is live weekdays from 9 am – 5:30 pm on 091 544310. When you call, you will be connected with one of our Cardiac Nurse Specialists. Alternatively, you can email the Croí Health Team at healthteam@croi.ie or join our weekly Heartlink West Virtual Chats.

Valentine’s Day Meal Ideas

Just because we can’t eat out this Valentine’s Day, does not mean we can’t make it special at home! Our Croí Dietitian, Aisling, has gathered some quick, delicious and heart healthy recipes for you to try on Valentine’s Day, next Sunday, February 14th!

Starter:

Begin your meal with a simple bruschetta. Easy to prepare but packed with flavour. Tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onion and basil are staple foods in the heart healthy, Mediterranean diet. Onion and garlic are known as ‘prebiotics’ and they promote healthy gut bacteria. Try this simple Tomato Bruschetta Recipe.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, why not try this Lemony Prawn Bruschetta?

Main Course:

Oily fish, such as salmon, are a great source of the heart healthy, fatty acids, so, what could be better to have as a main course on Valentine’s Day! Give this Sautéed Salmon with Citrus Salsa a try!

If you’re looking to spice things up this Valentine’s Day, why not try these Tomato and Chilli Mussels. Mussels are a good source of protein, fatty acids and contain a range of vitamins and minerals.

With the recent cold snap, if you’re looking for something more heart warming, try a Chicken Madras. The mix of herbs and spices, combined with a tomato base, makes this a very tasty and low saturated fat meal to warm you up!

If your idea of Valentine’s Day involves spending the minimal amount of time in the kitchen, then why not try this Spanish Style Chicken Stew. It only takes 10 minutes to prepare, and 25 minutes to simmer. How you spend that time is up to you…

Dessert:

Nothing says Valentine’s Day like chocolate, so why not go all out with these mouth-watering Chocolate Molten Cakes? Dark chocolate has been shown to have some health benefits and is lower in fat and sugar than milk chocolate.

For something a bit lighter, try these mini Dark Chocolate and Blackberry Pavlovas. Or, keep things simple with the classic, some Chocolate Dipped Strawberries.

Bring the restaurant experience to the comfort of your own home with these delicious dishes! Put on some nice clothes (or your pyjamas and slippers, if that’s what you prefer), light some candles, and tuck in and enjoy your lockdown Valentine’s dinner date!

Take Valentine’s Day to Heart!

BY CROÍ'S LEAD DIETITIAN, SUZANNE SEERY

As Valentine’s Day is approaching, it’s time to get creative! How about spending quality time with that special someone by preparing a heart healthy meal together? You can spice things up in the kitchen by using a range of herbs and spices to boost the senses and add plenty of flavour while avoiding added salt.

The colour red is often associated with love, passion and desire, so the recipes chosen feature red fruit and vegetables! Fruit and vegetables come in lots of different colours which represents the variety of antioxidants in these foods. Antioxidants are known to help keep our immune system strong, protect our body’s cells from damage and reduce the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Red fruit and vegetables get their colour from Lycopene which is known to have antioxidant properties that may help to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Lycopene is more easily absorbed in the body when it’s cooked such as in the homemade tomato and basil soup recipe included in your Valentines dinner menu!

Not only will you have fun cooking together, you will also spend a lot less as this three course meal can be prepared for less than €20 (see recipes below)!

3 Course Valentine’s Dinner Menu:

This delicious soup costs less than €5 and takes only half an hour to make! It also contains a wide range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which contribute to strong hair, skin and nails, enzyme regulation and the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Ingredients

  • 5 tbsp virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 1 bulb garlic cloves
  • 1 kg of vine / regular fresh tomatoes
  • 4 semi-sundried tomatoes

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400F/Gas Mark 6.  Place the tomatoes on the vine and garlic in a large roasting pan, drizzle with 2 tablespoon olive oil and roast in the oven for 25 minutes or until the tomatoes have burst. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.
  2. Squeeze the roasted garlic from its skin and remove the vine from the tomatoes.
  3. Place the garlic flesh and roasted tomatoes into a large pan, add the sundried tomatoes, basil (reserving a few leaves for garnish), and 3 tbsp olive oil. Blitz with a handheld blender until smooth, then add enough liquid to reach the desired consistency.
  4. Serve warm with a few leaves of basil torn, and some wholemeal brown bread.

This unique main course will bring your senses on a whole new adventure as you explore various Mediterranean spices. Not only will you be pleasantly surprised, you will also be doing your heart a favour. This lean-protein dish uses heart healthy olive oil or rapeseed oil, which are unsaturated fats. It also contains 3 servings of vegetables per portion and is high in vitamin C and fibre!

Ingredients:

  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 124g lean turkey breast mince (< 8% fat)
  • ½ small onion
  • 2 garlic cloves grated
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 3-4 mushrooms, sliced
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 low-salt chicken stock cube
  • 2-3 teaspoons of  dried oregano
  • 60g low-fat mozzarella, grated
  • 150g green vegetables to serve.

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Halve the peppers length-ways, then remove the seeds and core but keep the stalks on. Rub the peppers with a drizzle of olive oil and season well. Put on a baking tray and roast for 15 mins.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Fry the mince for 2-3 mins, stirring to break up the chunks, then tip onto a plate.
  3. Wipe out your pan, then heat the rest of the oil over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, stir-fry for 2-3 mins, then add the cumin and mushrooms and cook for 2-3 mins more.
  4. Tip the mince back into the pan and add the chopped tomatoes and tomato purée. Crumble in the stock cube and cook for 3-4 mins, then add the oregano and season. Remove the peppers from the oven and fill them with as much of the mince as you can. (Don’t worry if some spills out it – it will go satisfyingly crisp in the oven.) Top with the cheese and return to the oven for 10-15 mins until the cheese starts to turn golden.

Enjoy and feel guilt free in building your own fruit bowl! This activity is fun, rewarding and will allow you to show your great creative self.

Choose a mixture of berries such as strawberries, raspberries and seasonal fruits.

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Top 10 tips for a Heart Healthy Valentine’s Day

By Christine Houlihan, Sligo IT student on placement with Croí

Your beloved may have the key to your heart, but healthy eating and getting active can be the key to a healthy heart.  This Valentine’s Day why not treat your heart with love by sharing a heart healthy gift or date with your sweetheart.

  1. Rather than tempting your loved one with chocolates, get creative and consider gifting them something unique or that could last a lifetime. Gift a basket of fresh berries, some handpicked flowers or write the lyrics of a song that expresses your feelings into card.
  2. Sharing is caring, if gifted a decadent box of chocolates eat in moderation and savor every bite. Make the love go further by storing them in a fridge or freezer and enjoying later in the month in the company of friends and family.
  3. Take a cookery class together, brush up on your cookery skills and learn some tips and tricks along with delicious recipes for the next time you decide to stay in for date night. Cooking a romantic meal can be a great way for you both to bond and control the quality and quantity of meals.
  4. Use heart healthy ingredients, whether it’s breakfast for two or a romantic candlelit dinner for one. Use Galway Bay as inspiration by swapping your steak for local fish, rekindle your relationship with a less-favorite vegetable by preparing in a new way, or spice things up by replacing salt with herbs and spices.
  5. Lovers dining out for Valentine’s Day, avoid overdoing it by spending time planning your date in advance. Choose from one of the West’s many restaurants that use fresh, healthy, local ingredients, order half portions for larger meals, and skip or split desserts, your heart will thank you for it.
  6. Avoid excess alcohol, skip the pub crawl and take your date on a site crawl around Galway City this Valentine’s Day. Set off from O’Connell’s pub and make your way down past Lynch’s Castle before dancing under the moonlight down by the Claddagh.
  7. Spend quality time together, make it a day of meaning and unforgettable memories by bundling up and getting outdoors to visit some of Ireland’s best tourist attractions. Visit the wild Cliffs of Moher or take a more relaxed trip to the picturesque Kylemore Abbey.
  8. Take a walk along Galway’s Prom, and if you have a dog why not treat them this Valentine’s Day by having them come along. Walking just 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week can really benefit heart health and help with weight management.
  9. Give to one another by giving back, ask your date to volunteer with you at a local charity. Giving back is a healthy habit that will boost your mood and beat stress. Can you spare an hour or two to help the team at Croí ?
  10. Take time to relax, book a double date at a spa, attend a yoga class together or settle in and watch a romantic movie in the evening. Taking time out from everyday life is important for heart, head and overall health.