February is American Heart Month – What’s Your Heart Disease Risk?

February is American Heart Month: do you know your personal 10-year risk of heart disease? And the key factors that elevate heart disease risk?

What’s Your Personal 10-Year Risk of Heart Disease?

You can easily calculate your own 10-year risk of heart disease. In fact, the risk calculator is even available in an app (my cardiologist used his phone to calculate my risk during our last appointment). If you do not already have heart disease, are between 40-80 years old, and have an LDL cholesterol level lower than 190 mg/dL, you can calculate your 10-Year risk of heart disease with an online calculator.  All you need are your Cholesterol and Blood Pressure numbers.

There are two calculator options:

  • The Heart Risk Calculator is the simpler calculator: it has fewer inputs and it’s easier to read suggestions for lowering heart disease risk. This picture shows their risk-lowering suggestions based on the numbers I input.
  • The American College of Cardiology’s ASCVD Risk Estimator Plus is a more in-depth tool with more detailed inputs and suggestions for lowering risk. It’s probably the one your doctor would use.

Use one—or both—of these calculators (if they apply to you) to quickly get a better understanding of your 10-year risk of heart disease and what you can do to lower it.

Key Factors That Elevate Heart Disease Risk

In their online resource, Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors, the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute details key heart disease risk factors. Broadly, there are two types of risk factors: a) risks you cannot control, and b) risks that are controllable with lifestyle, diet and, if necessary, medication.

Heart disease risk factors you CANNOT control (but should be discussed with your doctor) include age, gender, ethnicity, and family history of heart disease.

Risk factors that are controllable with lifestyle, diet and, if necessary, medication include:

  • High Blood Cholesterol and Triglycerides
  • High Blood Pressure*
  • Diabetes and Prediabetes
  • Overweight and Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Unhealthy Diet
  • Stress

If you have one or more of these risk factors, it’s vital that you discuss your heart disease risk with your doctor and develop a plan to reduce your risk. A heart-healthy lifestyle can reduce cholesterol and blood pressure and thus heart disease risk.

* For more detailed information about high blood pressure and the heart disease risk it poses, read my post, High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure Raise Heart Disease Risk. And for more detail about cholesterol and how to lower it naturally with diet and exercise, give my book a try.

At least once a year—why not now?!— it’s smart to really consider your heart health and make sure you’re doing all you can to reduce your risk of heart disease. So if you have your cholesterol results and know your blood pressure, take a moment to calculate your personal heart disease risk (if the calculator is applicable to you), and review the factors that increase your risk of heart disease.

If you don’t know your cholesterol, now’s the time to get it tested.

And if you don’t know your blood pressure, get thee to a drugstore or buy a home blood pressure monitor. Personally, I like the Omron 10 Series Wireless Bluetooth Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor with Two User Mode (200 Reading Memory) – Compatible with Alexa because it sends readings to my phone so I can easily track it over time and bring results to my doctor.

It’s February. Do you know your heart-disease risk?

There’s no better time than right now to make sure you’re doing all you can for your heart health.


Overnight No-Cook Refrigerator Oatmeal

Oatmeal is one of the heart-healthiest ways to start your day, but I’ve failed for years to make it my go-to breakfast because even when it’s hot, oatmeal just leaves me cold.

Until now.

Anna Stockwell’s excellent post on epicurious.com’s, How To Make Overnight Oats Without a Recipe (aka in a jar) inspired me to try oatmeal again. Her recipe involved NO cooking, no cleaning, cute mason jars, and she said the healthy chia seeds lend it a tapioca-like texture.


Especially the chia seeds. First of all, I found it fascinating that they change texture; this I had to see. More importantly, chia seeds are a great source of antioxidants, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. For years I’ve justified (not accurately, I’m sure) my bagel with lox habit with the fact that high-sodium lox delivers heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Interestingly, chia seeds deliver omega-3s too, albeit a different kind which are not as effective as fish. But still—I eat a lot of fish so the fact that this wonder oatmeal is made with rolled oats, chia seeds AND is easy to make was enough for me to give it a try.

So out I went to purchase mason jars (I had no idea easy-to-use, adorable ‘wide mouth’ mason jars with measuring lines existed! Note: picture links to Amazon; I bought mine at Walmart.) I followed Ms. Stockwell’s ‘no-recipe’ exactly the first time, then ditched measuring (and the unnecessary salt and sugar) and have now had oatmeal for breakfast 15 days in a row—and I even took one on the train to have for breakfast on the go.

Nutritionally, the oatmeal is FAR healthier than the whole wheat bagel with a smidge of whipped cream cheese and 1/2 ounce of lox. It beats my old standby bagel and lox in every category but two: the oatmeal is a smidge higher in calories and the omega 3s from the chia seeds are not the cholesterol-lowering DHA sort. But it’s healthier in every other (read important) way.

This easy, delicious no-cook oatmeal, made with skim milk, chia seeds and rolled oats delivers 8 fewer grams of fat, 75% less salt (!), nearly 3x the cholesterol-lowering fiber(!) and more vitamins, calcium and potassium than my whole wheat half-bagel with lox:

In fact, it’s SO much healthier that even I just can’t justify going back to my bagel and lox. Plus I actually like this oatmeal.

Of course, there are lots of other ways to eat heart-healthy oatmeal. My post, The Triple Threat Oatmeal Breakfast, even features a crock pot recipe—which is good, but proved too much planning and cleaning for me. Plus, IMHO this refrigerated version is both tastier and easier.

I hope you give this ‘recipe’ a try. As I happen to love cinnamon that’s my flavoring of choice, but feel free to follow your heart (bad pun intended) or Ms. Stockwell’s suggestions for changing up the flavor profiles.

No Cook Single-Serve Refrigerator Oatmeal
Prep Time
1 min
Total Time
1 min

Take 1 minute to mix ingredients in a 'jar' and refrigerate overnight for a delicious high-fiber start to the day. Chia seeds add both texture and protein.

Servings: 1 person
Calories: 204 kcal
Author: Anna Stockwell recipe, adapted by Karen Swanson
  • 1/4 cup Rolled Oats
  • 1/2 cup Skim Milk or Almond Milk
  • 1 tbsp Chia Seeds
  • 1 pinch Cinnamon (optional, but I use a lot)
  • 1 pinch Salt (optional, I do NOT use)
  • 1 pinch Sugar (optional, I do NOT use)
  • 1 bunch apples and/or almonds, chopped (optional, I'm too lazy to add)
  1. In an 8-ounce mason jar (or anything with a lid), add oats, milk and chia seeds and stir.

  2. Add cinnamon and (optional salt and sugar.)  Stir and cap with lid. In fact, stirring isn't even really necessary.

  3. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

  4. To serve, either stir and eat cold out of the jar (like muesli) or pour into bowl, stir well, and microwave 1-2 minutes until hot. Optionally top with fruit and/or almonds for extra crunch and cholesterol-lowering punch.

Recipe Notes
  • Read Anna Stockwell's excellent How to Make Overnight Oats Without a Recipe post for alternate ingredient ideas and important adjustments to make if you don't use Chia Seeds.
  • Nutritional Value calculated using MyFitnessPal, using skim milk and no salt or sugar.
Nutrition Facts
No Cook Single-Serve Refrigerator Oatmeal
Amount Per Serving (1 bowl)
Calories 204 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 9%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 3mg 1%
Sodium 56mg 2%
Potassium 404mg 12%
Total Carbohydrates 31g 10%
Dietary Fiber 11g 44%
Sugars 6g
Protein 10g 20%
Vitamin A 5%
Vitamin C 2%
Calcium 28%
Iron 13%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.