One of the best resolutions we can make at the top of the year is to improve our health, which makes it the perfect time to take a peek at, “The 30-Day Heart Tune-up”  a book by well-known cardiologist, Dr. Steven Masley MD.

Offering concise, straight-forward explanations that pair well with his pull-no-punches delivery of insightful medical information, I for one appreciate that Dr. Masley translates all the medical jargon, and the bodily processes in a way that makes it possible for us to grasp the reasons behind our health problems, and ways for us to truly reverse them.

Starting right off the bat with explaining that the cause of cardiovascular disease is simple — arterial plaque — he then explains that plaque is formed when certain foods we eat combine with inflammation present in our blood.

When soft plaque lesions rupture, they release inflammatory chemicals that create blood clots, which can be deadly. In fact, these ruptures cause more that 80% of heart attacks, strokes, and sudden deaths today.

Fortunately, a non-invasive ultrasound test called the Intimal Medial Thickness (IMT), can measure the thickness of arterial plaque in one small spot, and since plaque grows at the same rate everywhere in our body, this one small scan can reveal how much plaque growth we have everywhere.

Another subject that Dr. Masley cleverly demystifies is cholesterol.

“Cholesterol is actually essential for brain function, and for moving nutrients throughout our body,” Masley said in a recent phone interview. “So, it’s really not the bad guy it’s being made out to be. We have become so accustomed to thinking of cholesterol as dangerous that most of us have lost sight of the fact that we need it.

This fatty substance makes our cell walls flexible, and it constitutes the building blocks of hormones like testosterone, and nutrients, such as Vitamin D. It also helps cover our nerve cells with a myelin sheath.”

I personally liked Dr. Masley’s explanation on LDL cholesterol, the kind that we call “bad.” He refers to it as a bubble that carries fat-soluble nutrients, like Vitamin E, from our intestines to the rest of our body.

“LDL acts as a delivery truck when we eat nutrient rich foods,” he said. “However, when you fill your LDLs with bad fats, it transforms them from a nutrient-carrying bubble into plaque, which then lines the arteries like trash bags blocking off traffic in an alley.”

HDLs, on the other hand, are “healthy” cholesterol because they act like trash collectors cruising your blood vessels, picking up all those “bad” LDL bubbles.

“Ideally, the minimal goal,” Masley said, “is to have more than enough HDLs (garbage trucks) to remove the LDLs (garbage bags) from your blood stream.”

What might be surprising is that Dr. Masley stated that most cholesterol doesn’t come from our diets.

“Our liver makes cholesterol while we sleep," he said. "Moderate egg consumption does not raise cholesterol levels, and eating shrimp is safe, as far as cholesterol goes, too.”

What I appreciate most about this book is that while Masley is very good at pointing out problems, he's equally good at offering up excellent solutions that can even reverse damage simply by adding fresh vegetables and fruits — in their natural state — to the end of our forks.

"Packed with anti-aging nutrients, eating just 4 to 5 cups of vegetables a day can not only reduce our risk for heart attack and stroke by 35%, but also reduce cancer risks while helping us lose weight, too."

Here now are some wonderful ways to boost your vitality with recipes from Dr. Masley’s 30-Day Heart Tune-up — Enjoy.

Stir-Fry with Orange-Ginger Sauce

by Dr. Steven Masley

Easy to make, delicious flavors, and colorful. To modify this recipe, substitute shrimp or firm tofu for chicken.

1 1/2 cups raw brown rice

3 cups water

1 tablespoon nut oil, almond, or walnut

1 tablespoon grated fresh gingerroot

1 medium onion, diced

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, organic, free range, cut into strips

4 medium garlic cloves, diced

1 medium red bell pepper, sliced

2 cups broccoli

2 cups snow peas

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon red chili flakes, or to taste

1/3 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

2 medium green onions, roots trimmed and discarded, sliced

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

1/3 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed and seeds removed

1 tablespoon tamari sauce, low-sodium (or low sodium soy sauce)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Garnish: 2 tablespoon almond slivers (or chopped cashews) toasted

Bring rice and water to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Prepare vegetables and chicken while the rice is cooking. 15 minutes before you are ready to serve, heat wok or large sauté pan over medium- high heat. Add oil gingerroot and onion, and stir occasionally until onion becomes translucent – about two minutes. Add chicken and stir until opaque, about 4 to 5 minutes. If using shrimp or tofu, sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until shrimp turns pink or tofu is slightly browned.

To wok, add garlic, bell pepper and broccoli, snow peas, pepper, and chili flakes. Stir occasionally for 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the broth, green onions orange rind, orange juice, tamari sauce, sesame oil and cornstarch. When vegetables are brightly colored and tender-crisp, add liquid to wok and stir until chicken and vegetables are coated with the thicken sauce, 1 to 2 minutes. Toast nuts for 1 minute in a sauté pan on a medium-high and sprinkle over stir-fry, if desired. Serve immediately over hot rice.

Approximate servings per recipe: 4.

Grilled Sirloin and Shrimp

By Dr. Steven Masley

2 four-ounce sirloin steaks (grass fed, organic) fat trimmed or tenderloins

8 ounces shrimp, extra-large, shelled, and deveined

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons minced shallots

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon mineral sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Marinate steaks and shrimp in vinegar for 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Combine oil, shallots, garlic, and spices (save 1 tablespoon of this mixture and set aside for brushing layer) and rub into steaks and shrimp. Let marinade for 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

Prepare grill or broiler, medium-high heat, 400 degrees to 450 degrees. Grill steaks until cooked to desired doneness, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Grill shrimp until pink, 2 to 3 minutes per side. After turning shrimp and steaks, brush the reserved tablespoon of marinade. Transfer to a plate and serve with a double vegetable portion and a salad with balsamic vinaigrette.

Approximate servings per recipe: 2.

The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up Mayonnaise

Prep: 5-10 minutes: Makes 1 cup

Mayo you make yourself is much more flavorful and vastly healthier, assuming you choose good ingredients.

1 large egg, organic, free-range, omega-3*

1 medium garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/16 teaspoon mineral sea salt

1/16 teaspoon Italian herbs

3/4 cup nut oil (almond or walnut)

Combine the egg, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, salt and herbs in a food processor or blander. Blend until smooth. With the processor running, slowly drizzle oil into container. The sauce will thicken. Add additional fresh herbs if desired, after the mayonnaise has formed.  Refrigerate immediately.

* =Caution: Consuming raw egg products has some significant health risks. To reduce the risk, wash the egg with soap and water and sanitize all surfaces that come in contact with the eggshell, including your hands after food preparation. If you have any significant health issues, then buy processed mayo and avoid using raw egg products. Note: Pasteurized eggs are also available in some markets.

Giveaway

The winner of the “Second Chance” Holiday Gift Giveaway is Terry Wisely from Mesick, and the winner of the “Second Chance” giveaway, which was randomly drawn from all those who entered in December but did not win is Diane VanAntwerp from Cadillac.  Congratulations.

I am thrilled to announce that Dr. Masley is “gifting” a copy of his book, “The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up,” to the first Cadillac News reader who answers this question correctly: “What is the name of the test that can determine the thickness of arterial plaque?”

For a chance to win this amazing book on cardio health and more,  call or text your answer to me at: (269) 625-5817; or email it to me at: laurakurella@yahoo.com. Be sure to leave your name, phone number and mailing address along with the correct answer to this question. Good luck.