Happy National Heart Month

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February is National Heart Month, so what better way to celebrate than to talk about three things you can do for heart-healthy living?

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in Sampson County and in the US for both men and women. But did you know it is largely preventable? There are several things we can do to help take care of our heart. The #OurHearts Movement is an inspiring way for The Heart Truth to encourage and motivate everyone to adopt heart-healthy behaviors, together. Research shows having social support and personal networks makes getting regular physical activity, eating healthy, losing weight, and quitting smoking easier. So let’s jump right to it – Here are three things you can do for your heart this month (and every month) for a heart-healthy lifestyle:

  1. Manage Stress – Research suggests that an emotionally upsetting event, particularly one involving anger, can serve as a trigger for a heart attack or angina in some people. Stress can contribute to high blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors. Some of the ways people cope with stress, such as drinking alcohol, using other substances, smoking, or overeating, are not healthy ways to manage stress. Instead, try talking to a professional counselor, practicing meditation, being physically active, trying relaxation techniques, or talking with friends, family, and community or religious supports systems to help manage stress. We all handle stress in different ways, so focus on finding a healthy means to reduce your stress to keep your heart (and mind) at ease.
  2. Choose Heart-Healthy Foods – I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t include this one! Heart-healthy eating involves choosing certain foods, such as fruits and vegetables, while limiting others, such as saturated fats, trans fats, and added sugars. Saturated fats are typically found in animal products, think eggs, fatty cuts of meat, and dairy products. Coconut oil, as well as other fats and oils that are solid at room temperature such as butter and shortening, are also high in saturated fat. Instead, opt for lean cuts of meat (white meat chicken, white meat pork, lean beef cuts such as sirloin tip, top round, eye of round), low or non-fat dairy options, and unsaturated oils such as olive oil or canola oil. To learn more about heart-healthy eating, join any of our health and nutrition programs we offer at our Cooperative Extension office!
  3. Get Regular Physical Activity – Not only is there a long list of other benefits from being physically active, such as better sleep, pain management, and improved mood, but there are also heart health benefits such as lowering “bad” cholesterol levels, increasing “good” cholesterol levels, and managing high blood pressure all from being active! You should always talk with your doctor before you start a new exercise plan. It’s recommended for adults to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week, or 25 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise 3 times a week, or a combination of both. For moderate-intensity exercises, think being able to carry on a conversation while exercising. For vigorous-intensity exercise, think becoming winded or too out-of-breath to carry on a conversation. This can vary from person to person depending on the level of activity you’re used to. Start slow, and set new goals for yourself each week. It could be as simple as reducing how long you sit at any given time.

I hope you join the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Sampson County office in celebrating taking care of #OurHearts this month! Be sure to follow our Facebook page to see ways to take part in Heart Month, as well as see what programs are coming up over the next few months!

*This information is provided in part by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Three Sisters Soup

Recipe from the American Heart Association

Serves 6


  • 6 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • 16 oz. canned, low-sodium yellow corn or hominy, drained, rinsed
  • 16 oz. canned, low-sodium kidney beans (drained, rinsed)
  • 1 small onion (chopped)
  • 1 rib celery (chopped)
  • 15 oz. canned, cooked pumpkin (Tip: Be careful, don’t get pumpkin pie filling!)
  • 5 fresh sage leaves or ½ tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp. curry powder


  1. Bring chicken stock to a slow boil.
  2. Add corn/hominy, beans, onion, and celery. Boil for 10 minutes.
  3. Add sage leaves, curry, and pumpkin and simmer on medium-low heat for 20 minutes.