Yu-Ai Kai workshop offers tips on how to maintain a healthy heart


SAN JOSE — Ed and Florence Takeda, both 80, take care of their hearts by working out at the gym on weekdays for two to three hours. They were among about 50 attendees at the Yu-Ai Kai/Japanese American Community Senior Service’s Kenko Series workshop, “Healthy Hearts,” held Feb. 26 at the Dr. James Akiyama Wellness Center in San Jose’s Japantown.

The workshop featured a lecture and cooking demonstration with tips on how to maintain a healthy heart.

Dr. Robert Nishime of Japan Town Medical Group presented the lecture. He focused on heart conditions, treatment and care. Suzanne Vandyck, an international culinary instructor, author and founder of Worldchefs International LLC, performed a cooking demonstration. She prepared a heart-healthy soup for the audience to sample.

Nishime said that exercising and eating a balanced diet are key to maintaining a healthy heart.

Ed Takeda, a retired pharmacist, said that Nishime offered a variety of excellent tips during his lecture.

“It was very helpful for the senior group,” he said, adding that he liked Nishime’s focus on the importance of exercise.

His wife Florence Takeda, a retired nurse, who has coronary artery disease, said, “It was interesting and very relevant to me.”

Nishime said that seniors must take greater precautions in order to prevent heart disease.

“The arteries aren’t as flexible as they used to be and the risk for coronary artery disease increases,” he said.

He added that exercise offers one of the best ways to reduce one’s risk for heart disease and other health conditions.

“Exercise can prevent all kinds of problems, including breast and colon cancer, as well as osteoporosis,” he said.

He added, “You don’t necessarily have to join a gym. Walk more and take the stairs instead of the elevator.”

Nishime said that aerobic exercise, especially running or swimming, is very helpful. He added that resistance exercise, or strength training, is also important.

Nishime said that in addition to exercise, diet is also important in preventing heart disease.

“Try to eat less fast food and sweets. People who eat more fruits and vegetables live longer,” Nishime said, adding that many of the traditional staples of the Japanese diet are very healthy.

“Green tea can lower the risk of heart disease. And try to eat more fish, which falls under good fatty acids,” he said, adding that salmon is one of the best fish to eat.

Nishime said that in addition to diet, lifestyle changes can also reduce one’s risk of heart disease. He said that eliminating cigarettes and alcohol can significantly improve one’s health.

“Smoking is a big risk factor and alcohol causes a lot of problems with the liver,” he said.

He said it’s also important to see a doctor and to get regular screenings in order to prevent heart disease.

“You need to have someone review your medical history. And almost everyone should have a yearly blood test,” Nishime said.

He added that people should be on the lookout for signs of heart disease, such as a pounding heart and pain with walking, as well as arthritis in the lower back.

After Nishime’s lecture, Vandyck presented a cooking demonstration in the facility’s kitchen.

Clad in a black and white chef’s uniform, she prepared a Mediterranean mushroom and barley soup, which the audience was able to sample.

Vandyck, who was born in Belgium, said that the vegetarian broth contains numerous heart-healthy ingredients such as onions, garlic and carrots.

“Onions are number one on the list of antioxidants. Onions are an antiseptic,” Vandyck said.

The recipe also contains shiitake mushrooms and barley, which Vandyck said offer many health benefits.

Shiitake mushrooms have a lot of antioxidants. They are a low-fat and low-calorie food. It’s always good to add shiitake mushrooms to your diet. And barley is very nutritious. It lowers your cholesterol,” she said.


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