The Intake Valve to Your Heart!


Chief Sam DiGiovanna

The Intake Valve to Your Heart!

When I first started the fire service, I knew the importance of staying fit as firefighting is a very strenuous job. I worked out regularly and ate right. I would make healthy meals like taco salads, stuffed eggplant, chicken, and vegetable meals but the older guys hated them. They wanted their “meat and potatoes” or “structure burgers” filled with grease and a side of fries. I caught a lot of grief for my healthy heart smart meals. Some would even order pizza to satisfy their cravings after picking at my meals.

Back then, not much was known about cardiovascular disease and firefighters. Through research and testing we now know it rates as one of our top killers in our profession.

As Firefighters we know the pump intake valve allows the flow of water from the hydrant into the pump panel on our fire trucks. We need to have clean water with no debris otherwise it will clog the pump and we will be unable to pump water effectively or at all if too clogged.

We can look at our mouths as an intake valve as well. What you put in, if not clean, can ultimately clog our valves and keep our heart from effectively pumping or worse – at all!

I recently read a great article from the Mayo Clinic on how to maintain a Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease. The eight steps identified in the article were:

  1. Control your portion size

How much you eat is just as important as what you eat. Overloading your plate, taking seconds, and eating until you feel stuffed can lead to eating more calories than you should.

  1. Eat more vegetables and fruits

Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals. Vegetables and fruits are also low in calories and rich in dietary fiber.

  1. Select whole grains

Whole grains are good sources of fiber and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health.

  1. Limit unhealthy fats

Limiting how much saturated and trans fats you eat is an important step to reduce your blood cholesterol and lower your risk of coronary artery disease.

  1. Choose low-fat protein sources

Lean meat, poultry and fish, low-fat dairy products, and eggs are some of your best sources of protein.

  1. Reduce the sodium in your food

Eating a lot of sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

  1. Plan ahead: Create daily menus

You know what foods to feature in your heart-healthy diet and which ones to limit.

  1. Allow yourself an occasional treat

Allow yourself an indulgence every now and then.

Although we now know that eating certain foods can increase our heart disease risk, it is often tough to change our eating habits. Whether you have years of unhealthy eating under your belt or want to fine-tune your diet, it’s not too late. Once you know which foods to eat more of and which foods to limit, you will be on your way toward a heart -healthy diet.

To read the entire Mayo article open here:

February is Heart Awareness month so it is important we take these recommendations seriously and like training (train as if your life depends on it – because it does). Make eating right a policy that we cannot live without (eat as if your life depends on it – because it does)!

About Chief Sam DiGiovanna

Sam DiGiovanna is a 33-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as fire chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale, Calif.