Dr. Janet Brill and I have something in common – we are both health and fitness experts who are married to men with heart disease. The difference is that my husband had some pre-heart attack symptoms so we can at least try to prevent the first heart attack from happening. In fact, this book review opportunity came to me when I was with hubby in Miami consulting with cardiologists, all of whom told us that a big “lifestyle change” was in order.
Dr. Brill watched her father die at the young age of 65 after his second heart attack. He had 20 years in between attacks with no lifestyle advice or changes. So when her husband Sam had his first heart attack in 2009, Dr. Brill decided to write a guide to help Sam, along with all the men and women like him, live a long and healthy life.
I know that in my household things must be simple. No crazy diets with special foods and tons of supplements and things that taste bad. Good, simple, basic foods are in order. And there needs to some fat (my classically trained chef can live with alternatives to butter, but will not be fat-free) and some dessert involved. Exercise is great, but not too long, too intense, or too complex. So when I saw the subtitle to Prevent A Second Heart Attack – 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease I thought, “this sounds like it might work.”
The eight foods are all easy to find and use – extra virgin olive oil (there’s the fat), greens/vegetables, figs/fruits, lentils/legumes, salmon/seafood, walnuts/flaxseeds, oatmeal/whole grains, red wine, and the bonus dark chocolate/cocoa (dessert!) – and they satisfy major food cravings. Add in some regular walking, maybe a bit of strength training, and you are good to go.
Throughout the book Dr. Brill does offer up the science behind her claims, giving many reasons why certain foods and fitness are good for the heart. Olive oil, for example, boosts our total antioxidant capacity, protects against free radicals, raises HDL and lowers LDL cholesterol, fights inflammation, lowers blood pressure, improves blood sugar, makes blood less likely to clot (like aspirin), and balances the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio. I knew it was good for me, but had no idea how good for me!
There are a number of excellent recipes as well, including this one from the Brill kitchen:
Dr. Janet’s Flourless Dark Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts
A dark, moist chocolatey treat.
Nonstick cooking spray
One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup packed Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon espresso powder
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place the black beans in a mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar, oats, cocoa powder, olive oil, espresso powder, flax seeds, vanilla, and salt. With an electric mixer, blend the ingredients until the black beans are mushed up and the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, top with walnuts, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the edges pull away from the sides of the pan and the middle of the brownies is firm. Let cool before slicing into 16 pieces.
NUTRITION PER SERVING (1 brownie):
Fat: 6 g (0 g EPA, 0 g DHA, 1g ALA)
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 1 mg
Sodium 89 mg
Carbohydrate: 16 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Sugars: < 1 g
Protein: 3 g
The beans and olive oil keep these intense brownies moist, while also full of fiber. Yummy!
If you are looking for an easy to understand explanation of heart disease and how to treat it via simple lifestyle changes, this book is for you.