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What’s your cholesterol score?

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Learn how to keep your cholesterol numbers in check and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Since the number one killer of men and women in the U.S. is heart disease, it’s important to know your cholesterol numbers. Cholesterol, an important substance made by your liver, forms cell structures, produces hormones, and helps with digestion. Here are the cholesterol numbers to know:

  • Good, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL), cholesterol helps prevent fat and cholesterol from clogging your arteries. Know your HDL: Think H for healthy! A healthy number is greater than 60 mg/dL.
  • Bad, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), cholesterol can cause cholesterol buildup and block your arteries. Know your LDL: Think L for lousy! A healthy number is less than 100 mg/dL.
  • Your total cholesterol score should be less than 200 mg/dL.

Starting at age 20, get your cholesterol checked every 5 years. Doctors use these numbers along with your age, blood pressure, and weight to help you manage your cardiac health. Smoking, diabetes, and heredity play important roles too.

There are ways to manage your cholesterol and heart health! Regular physical activity can lower LDL and raise HDL. A diet low in saturated fats can help as well, so make sure to check out the New Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Heart-healthy breathing blows stress away

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
It’s American Heart Month! Take care of your heart by developing healthy breathing techniques to reduce stress, improve physical and mental health, and strengthen resilience.

Stress can take its toll on your mental and physical health, including your heart health, but there are breathing techniques to buffer yourself from it! When you’re less focused on your breathing, it’s typical to breathe erratically—especially when you face the stressors of day-to-day life. In turn, your heart rate can become less rhythmic, causing your heart to not function as well.

But when you have longer, slower exhales—breathing at about 4-second-inhale and 6-second-exhale paces—your heart rate rhythmically fluctuates up and down. This rhythmic variability in heart rate mirrors your inhales and exhales so that you have maximum heart rate at the end of the inhale and minimum heart rate at the end of the exhale. More importantly, this physiological shift could help you feel less stressed, anxious, or depressed—and experience better heart health.

It’s easy to go through the motions of breathing while absorbed in your own thoughts; instead, take notice of your breathing and other body sensations. Regularly tuning in to your body sensations could help you feel more resilient and ready to:

  • Adapt to change
  • Deal with whatever comes your way
  • See the brighter, or funnier, side of problems
  • Overcome stress
  • Tolerate unpleasant feelings
  • Bounce back after illnesses, failures, or other hardships
  • Achieve goals despite obstacles
  • Stay focused under pressure
  • Feel stronger

Check out HPRC’s Mind-Body Apps, Tools, and Videos for paced breathing MP3s and additional mind-body exercises. Start training your breathing and becoming more mindful today!

Take it to heart

February is American Heart Month. Remember your fitness and nutrition goals to keep the most important muscle in your body healthy!

Heart disease is the #1 cause of death among adults in the U.S.—deadlier than any form of cancer. Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, overweight/obesity, family history, and smoking.

So what can you do to protect yourself protect yourself and your loved ones? First, know your risk factors. There are some things that you can’t change, such as your family history, sex, and age. But there are many things you CAN change through lifestyle choices.

Regular exercise can help you manage many risk factors such as weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol. By now, you’ve probably forgotten about your New Year’s fitness resolutions! Get back on track: commit to at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity at least 5 days a week. You can even stay active at work!

Remember to make healthy food choices and manage your stress too. Check out the newest Dietary Guidelines for the latest recommendations on eating right. Reboot those fitness and nutrition resolutions to stay ready, resilient, and fit. 

Stimulants—Give your heart a break

Know what’s in your dietary supplement, and if it could affect your heart.

Dietary supplements containing stimulants can negatively affect your heart and increase your risk of an adverse event. Stimulants such as caffeine, yohimbine, and synephrine can cause increased or irregular heart rate and high blood pressure and have been associated with chest pain, stroke, and heart attack. In addition, ingesting stimulants before or during exercise can further increase your risk for such heart problems and lead to potentially worse outcomes.

If you are considering a dietary supplement, it’s important to read the product label carefully, especially if you have a heart condition. There are many different stimulants used as ingredients in dietary supplements, and often products come with a warning. Moreover, stimulants are sometimes contained in a proprietary blend, so you can’t tell from the label exactly how much of each ingredient you would be taking. 

Heart-healthy gifts show love

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
February is American Heart Month. Discover ways to make it healthy for your loved ones and yourself!

How you treat your heart today can add years to your life—that’s the best gift you can ever give your loved ones! The latest research continues to show that eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and minimally processed foods is good for your heart. Reflect on what you eat as this can dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease. Make sure to include these heart-healthy foods in your nutrition plan too: luscious berries, leafy greens, a variety of nuts, and seafood (twice per week).

Want to show some love for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day? Cards, flowers, and chocolate are ordinary—do something extraordinary!

  • Surprise your sweetie with a fabulous meal. If you’re able, dine in this Valentine’s Day. Make a delicious spinach salad and salmon with a nut topping. Serve berries, frozen yogurt, and Chocolaty Delights (see recipe below) for the perfect dessert. You’ll save money, eat like royalty, and provide the nutrients your bodies crave. Don’t forget the candles and your favorite playlist!
  • Whip up Chocolaty Delights. Use cooking spray to grease the bottom of an 8 in pan. Blend one can of black beans (drained) and ¾ c water in a blender for 30 seconds. Add one box of brownie mix. Stir mixture well and spread in pan. Sprinkle ¼ c dark chocolate chips and ¼ c chopped walnuts on top. Bake according to box directions or until a toothpick (inserted in the center) comes out clean. Let your partner know that each tasty treat includes added protein, fiber, and iron—go ahead and indulge!
  • Give a gift of lasting health. Consider a fitness app, pedometer, or walking shoes. Then invite your sweetheart to work out or take a long walk together.

Find your Target Heart Rate

Filed under: Cardio, Heart, Heart rate
Tracking your heart rate is a great way to keep track of your exercise intensity.

Monitoring your heart rate is a useful tool you can learn to use to guide your training and make sure you’re getting the most out of your workouts. It can help make sure you’re pushing hard on interval days (vigorous exercise) and taking it easy on recovery days (light exercise). But what do words such as “light,” “moderate,” and “vigorous” mean when it comes to exercise?

You can determine your exercise intensity using your maximum and resting heart rates. Then you can use the Heart Rate Reserve (HRR) method to calculate your Target Heart Rate (THR) to determine what range your heart rate should be in for your desired exercise intensity. We provide a step-by-step process you can follow. Read more here.

Lucky number 7? Omega-7s and your health

Your body makes omega-7 fatty acids, but will getting more from supplements be beneficial? Check out the new OPSS FAQ.

What are omega-7 fatty acids? And do omega-7 supplements convey the health benefits advertised?

Omega-7 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat. Omega-7s are considered non-essential fatty acids, which means your body can make enough omega-7s to function properly. In other words, you don’t need to get them from foods or supplements.

One of the most common forms of omega-7s, which is also used in supplements, is palmitoleic acid (not to be confused with palmitic acid, which is a saturated fat). Omega-7 supplements are marketed for health benefits such as heart and liver health, improved cholesterol levels, weight loss, glucose (blood sugar) metabolism, and immune support. Limited research has shown some benefits from palmitoleic acid supplementation, but most of the research has been done on animals and only for short test periods (less than four weeks). As a result, no recommended dose or source of palmitoleic acid exists, and there is not enough evidence to suggest that omega-7 supplements can improve heart health or health in general.

Have a (chocolate) heart

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
February is American Heart Month—a reminder to practice good nutrition habits to reduce your risk of heart disease. Could your “chocolate fix” help or hurt?

You probably know that fruit, vegetables, and olive oil are healthy foods for your heart, but what about chocolate? For hundreds of years, chocolate—more specifically cacao, the unprocessed cocoa bean—has been considered good for health.

Cocoa is in high in flavanols, plant compounds with antioxidant activity that can help prevent or delay damage caused by free radicals. These antioxidant-rich flavanols are linked to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Some evidence has shown that cocoa can help lower blood pressure, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and improve blood flow.

However, not all chocolate is created equal. In general, the less processing, the more flavanols. Pure, unprocessed cocoa has more flavanols than chocolate, which has sugar, fat, and other additives. Dark chocolate has more flavanols than milk chocolate and white chocolate. But eating enough chocolate products to reach the desired amount of flavanols could require hundreds or even thousands of calories. While all that chocolate may taste great, the extra sugar, fat, and calories are not heart healthy.

Enjoy a square of dark chocolate or a serving of cocoa as part of your day, but the jury’s still out on whether chocolate can really help your heart.


Eat smart for a healthy heart

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
February is American Heart Month. Show your heart some love, and follow these tips for heart health.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. But making positive lifestyle choices, especially when it comes to food, can help keep your heart strong and healthy. Keep the following tips in mind whenever you eat out or cook at home:

  • Eat more fiber. Fiber from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes can help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk for heart disease. High-fiber foods also contain minerals that help manage your blood pressure.
  • Choose your fats wisely. Liquid fats such as olive oil and canola oil are considered “heart healthy” fats, whereas solid fats such as butter and animal fat contribute to clogged arteries. Another fat that is good for your heart is omega-3 fatty acid, which is found in salmon and walnuts.
  • Monitor your sodium intake. Diets high in sodium put you at risk for high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. Instead of using salt, try spices and herbs to season your food. Salt isn’t the only source of sodium though. Other foods high in sodium include canned soups and sauces, fast food, restaurant food, and deli meats.

A healthy eating plan is just one factor in reducing your risk for heart disease. For information on other ways to improve your heart health, visit

Do mindful people have good hearts?

New research suggests that highly mindful people also engage in healthy habits that protect them from heart disease.

Being mindful means simply being extra aware, in a nonjudgmental way and in the present moment, of your physical and mental experiences, even during ordinary, everyday tasks. Mindfulness isn’t just a technique you can do or a skill you can learn. It can also refer to a way of being. In other words, some people work on becoming more mindful and others just are mindful.

Mind-body skills—including mindfulness—reduce stress and improve heart health. And mindfulness in particular (both the skills and the way of being) has become a hot topic. Much of mindfulness research has focused on medical problems, but scientists are just beginning to really understand its role in preventing heart disease.

One recent study looked at people who already tend to be mindful, so it’s hard to say that mindfulness causes the good things associated with it, but somehow they seem to be related. However, according to another study, when cardiac patients were trained to be more mindful, they made smarter decisions about nutrition and exercise.

People who already tend to be very mindful, also tend to:

  • Not smoke
  • Have less body fat
  • Have less glucose (sugar) in their blood
  • Exercise more frequently

There are a couple factors that impact how mindful you can be in the first place: 1) how in control you feel and 2) whether or not you feel depressed. When you feel in control of your life, you’re able to monitor your own behaviors and change what you’re doing. When you’re feeling down, you might run on “autopilot,” without tuning in to your body’s sensations or your thoughts.

Over time, research will tell us more about how mindfulness affects healthy behaviors and how healthy behaviors impacts mindfulness. In the meantime, there appear to be many benefits associated with training mindfulness if you don’t tend to be mindful already. 

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