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almonds-heartNuts are high in protein and make a delicious, satisfying snack—but did you know they can also help lower your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes? Using data collected over a five-year period through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), researchers from Louisiana State University analyzed the diets of more than 13,000 adults, specifically their daily intake of “tree nuts” including pistachios, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and cashews. Here’s what they found:

Regular tree nut consumers—those who ate at least a quarter of an ounce of nuts daily—were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, the term given to a group of risk factors associated with heart disease and diabetes (including obesity, high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels). The lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome may be linked to the fact that nut eaters also had lower levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, which signals inflammation in the body and is one of the markers doctors use to evaluate the risk of developing coronary artery disease. The same group also had higher levels of “good” cholesterol in the blood, along with lower body mass indexes.

Adding a handful of nuts to the daily diet is a simple thing we can all do to support our daily health. Certain nuts (walnuts in particular) contain beneficial Omega-3 fats that can help balance the body’s inflammation response, along with heart-healthy fiber, vitamin E, potassium and amino acids, which is why Brenda Watson recommends them as part of her Love Your Heart eating plan. Just remember to watch your portion sizes, since nuts do contain some starch—and choose raw nuts that aren’t covered in sugar and salt (which can undermine their health benefits).

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woman-holding-childHeart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, taking the lives of roughly 600,000 people every year. Stroke is not far behind—killing one person every four minutes. Now, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Stroke Association (ASA) are embracing the power of personal connection and social media to improve cardiovascular health and brain health nationwide. Why? Life is why.

The life is whycampaign, unveiled this month, aims to get people talking about heart and brain health and sharing their stories with others. Using the Life is Why microsite, people are encouraged to share their personal “Whys”—who or what inspires them to live healthier every day—through photos, videos and other content using the hashtag #lifeiswhy. They can also send Life is Why e-Cards to friends and family, as well as create and personalize t-shirts, mugs and other items.

“We wanted people to be able to be able to share with others the reasons for embracing a healthy lifestyle in heart and mind,” said AHA Chief Executive Officer Nancy Brown. The microsite also features a “tool kit” providing resources to promote awareness about healthy living. Visitors can read about the warning signs of stroke, find out where to take a life-saving CPR course, and get information on important diet and lifestyle changes that can improve cardiovascular and brain health.

Together the AHA and ASA hope to meet their goal of significantly improving American heart health by the year 2020 and promoting a world free of heart disease and stroke. In other words, they want to help people everywhere experience “more of life’s precious moments.”

For more information, visit: http://lifeiswhy.org/.

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