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salmon-saladEating well is one of the most important steps we can take toward a healthy heart. In study after study, an unhealthy diet has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, but choosing the right foods can go a long way toward improving cardiovascular health.

According to experts at the American Heart Association, eating oily fish at least twice a week should be part of heart-healthy eating plan. The beneficial Omega-3 fats found in certain fish (such as salmon, trout and herring) promote heart health—in part due to their natural anti-inflammatory properties—and the AHA recommends eating two 3.5-ounce servings each week. Here are two quick and easy recipes to help you get started:

Baked Trout with Spinach & Tomatoes
Serves 2
Two 4-ounce trout fillets
One 10-ounce package fresh spinach
2 small plum tomatoes, sliced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. chopped pitted black olives
1 tbsp. drained capers
2 tbsp. fresh orange juice
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 400°. Place fillets in shallow glass baking dish. Top with the spinach, tomatoes, shallots, olives, and capers. Drizzle orange juice over each fillet. Bake approximately 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Remove from oven; sprinkle with pepper and serve immediately.

Grilled Wild Salmon with Mango Relish
Serves 2
½ small mango (pulp removed), diced
2 tbsp. diced red bell pepper
1 tbsp. diced red onion
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. grated lime zest
½ tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. fresh lime juice
Two 4-ounce wild salmon fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions: To prepare the relish, combine mango, red pepper, onion, parsley, cilantro, lime zest, garlic and lime juice; refrigerate 1 hour. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper; grill until fish flakes (about 4 minutes per side). Top fillets with relish and serve.

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This monthman-holding-dog you’re bound to hear a lot about heart health—its impact on Americans, the right numbers to know, and the things you can do every day to keep your heart healthy. And, as it turns out, those with canine companions may have an advantage when it comes to that last one.

Recently the American Heart Association issued a statement saying pet owners are less likely than non-owners to develop heart disease. The report was based on data the AHA gathered about people and their pets (mostly dog owners) and went on to say that having a four-legged companion could conceivably be part of a heart disease prevention strategy.

But is it just that dogs make us exercise more, and exercise is good for the heart? Not necessarily—though the added physical activity is a plus. Research has shown that dog owners typically have lower blood pressure than non-owners, and while exercise certainly plays a role in promoting healthy blood pressure, it may also have something to do with the overall calming effect that comes from petting a dog.

And speaking of calm, our canine companions also seem to help us handle stress better. While most people experience an increase in heart rate and blood pressure when faced with a stressful situation, dog owners tend to have a less intense cardiovascular response. That means their heart rate and blood pressure are not so quick to skyrocket, and when they do become elevated, they take less time to return to normal. Finally, dog ownership has also been linked to healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels, both of which are important for heart health.

So, amid all the advice you’ll hear this month about eating well and staying active, take a moment to say thanks to your best friend for giving you a head start on a healthier heart.

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