Denver, Colo. - When it comes to eating healthy we tend to think about weight loss. But the impact on our blood pressure and cholesterol is just as important.
Just ask a young woman who's survived not one, but two heart attacks. She talks about overcoming the odds, and how a heart-healthy diet is helping her fight back.
In a small room, it's dinner time. But it's more than a love of food that's bringing these people together. It's a love and appreciation for life.
"So my name is Michelle," says one woman seated at the table. "I've had two heart attacks."
Michelle Melvin and everyone at the table has had at least one close call with their hearts.
"What did you think when the doctor told you you'd had a heart attack?" The NOW's Kumasi Aaron asked Melvin. "It was disbelief," she responded.
Melvin was 41, active and healthy overall when she felt a pain in her temples and her forearms went numb.
"But, did I ever think heart attack?" Melvin recalls. "No. I was 41 years old. That doesn't happen happen when you're 41."
Her first thoughts? Her 8 and 10 year old sons.
Melvin says, "It was just more of that sacredness of I can't, I can't die. With these babies at home still."
She changed her diet and lifestyle but five years later, she had another heart attack.
"It wasn't supposed to happen again you know?" Melvin says. "You're not supposed to get it twice."
Doctors diagnosed her with SCAD, a rare heart disease that mostly affects young women.
"The patients that it affects frequently are super healthy patients," says Kasier Permanente Cardiac Registered Nurse Amanda Bloom. "These are women who are out there doing marathons, they really take good care of themselves that's kind of what's so scary about it."
Bloom started the support group. She wanted to make healthy eating a big part of it, because of its impact.
"It can really greatly reduce your risk of having another heart incident," Bloom says. "And for someone who hasn't had one it really reduces the risk of ever having one."
Bloom prepares the dishes herself. Kale apple and pecan salad, and butternut squash and lentil soup. When it comes to eating heart healthy, Bloom says fruits, dark leafy greens and vegetables are key.
For Melvin, the guidance she gets from Bloom about eating heart healthy is giving her important confidence.
"It kind of like jump starts," Melvin says. "It's like okay I can do this. I can go back and I can be strong again."
Becoming stronger with each bite, for whatever life might bring.
You can find more more healthy recipes from Kasier Permanente here. If you want to try the heart healthy dishes Bloom made for her patients, the recipes are below:
Kale, Apple and Pecan Salad
2 bunches laccinato Kale-tear into bite size pieces, remove ribs-Also called Dinosaur Kale
2 apples, chopped into bite size pieces.
1 cup pecans, toasted, roughly chopped
½ cup dried Cranberries or dates
Scant lemon juice
¼ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup honey
Place kale in a bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Drizzle with one teaspoon of olive oil. Massage kale for a couple minutes to tenderize.
Sprinkle a little lemon juice over apples to keep them from browning.
Mix together kale, apple, pecans, and cranberries.
Toss with dressing and serve. Start with ½ cup of dressing then add more as needed to taste.
Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup
1⁄4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 small butternut squash (about 1 lb.) peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 cups diluted low sodium veggie stock
1 cup red lentils
Finely chopped parsley, for garnish
½ cup non-fat Greek yogurt
½ tsp smoked paprika
2 TBSP of olive oil
Pepper, salt to taste
Heat oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, carrots, celery, and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly caramelized, 12–14 minutes. Stir in cumin, chile flakes, squash, salt, and pepper; cook until squash is soft, about 15 minutes. Add stock and lentils; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, slightly covered, until lentils are very tender, about 20 minutes. Let soup cool slightly, then, working in batches, purée soup until smooth. Stir paprika and 2 TBSP olive oil into yogurt to make sauce. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with parsley and paprika. Add a dollop of yogurt sauce and swirl in.