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A Message From the Heart

Consumer Conscious

You are going about your daily life as usual, when suddenly your heart sends you a message telling you all is not well. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease affects half of older Americans in some form. After a diagnosis, your doctor will be likely to recommend big lifestyle changes in your diet and exercise habits.

Healthy Heart

OUCH. There is simply no escaping the fact that poor eating and exercising habits do play a crucial role in heart health. Twenty years ago, a heart patient was likely told he or she should walk more. It is unlikely your doctor would have spoke much about poor dieting habits and/or smoking. However, we now know so much more! For this, we should be grateful which is why you should listen to the messages you receive from your heart! It does mean business.

If today's advice is ignored, the odds are high a heart patient will wind up in the hospital again with heart trouble -- or worse. We do not wish to talk about the "worse" however. We are going to discuss how to avoid that from happening.

Today, hospitals are better equipped to prepare heart patients for the lifestyle adjustments necessary. Big changes can cause additional stress on the heart so there are no changes recommended for the first month after any type of heart surgery. When that month is up, a diet such as The Mediterranean Diet, is a common recommendation for the patient. This vegetable-based diet allows for fish, a little chicken and a small amount of red meat. Studies have shown that those who incorporate such a diet have a lower incidence of recurrent heart attacks.

The best and most effective way to go about making the necessary dietary changes is gradually. Often, doctors and/or nurses will find out what changes a patient is willing to make in the beginning and they will then work from there.

Overall, the changes necessary in avoiding a more serious message from your heart are exercise and dietary changes. These changes are not temporary, they are lifetime as well as lifestyle changes. Sometimes, learning to accept those facts is half the battle.

Many people think a heart-healthy diet means a complicated cooking regime as well as an expensive one, but this need not be true. It is truly amazing what you can do with a can of beans and a can of tomato soup. Do a little homework, learn what to avoid and how to avoid it and then hunt down meals that are quick and easy to prepare. There are many available. In fact, it is possible to enjoy some of your favorites if you educate yourself on using lower-fat and/or fat-free substitutions in your recipes.

If you follow the recommended exercise and dietary guidelines given to you, you will wake up one morning, look in the mirror and say, "Is that me?" You will look better, healthier, trimmer and more relaxed. The biggest bonus is -- you will feel so much better! Once you begin to reap the rewards of positive lifestyle changes, you will never wish to go back to your old, bad habits.

The five pillars of cardiac health are:

  • Omega 3 (fatty acids). These are in olive oil and fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel.
  • Antioxidants, from vitamins E and C. Green tea is famous for its antioxidant content.
  • Potassium and magnesium, the former found in bananas, potatoes, celery, many fruits, vegetables, and the latter found in whole grains, nuts and greens.
  • B-complex vitamins found in eggs, liver, and vitamin supplements.
  • Fruits and vegetables are a universal recommendation for good health. These contain lots of good stuff and very little or no bad stuff.

In today's supermarket produce sections, you can find a huge variety of vegetable choices from radishes and roots to kale and kohlrabi. Libraries, bookstores and the Internet are full of creative and delicious options for bringing more fruit and vegetables into your diet. In addition, you can find explanations for some of the stranger vegetable varieties to determine if you would like to try them or avoid them.

In closing, here is a quote from a heart patient I recently spoke with who suffered two heart attacks. Not following doctor's orders after his first attack he became afraid after the second and did not wish to suffer another attack. The third could very well have been the last -- it most likely would have brought about his demise. This time, he was determined to do his best to make the necessary lifestyle changes and he did succeed. He lost thirty pounds. He is currently in his late sixties. He gave me permission to use his first name only -- it is Carl. Here is what he had to say when I asked him how he felt about his success earlier this year:

It is fantastic! This whole thing was a pain in the butt in the beginning, but after a couple months, and pushing yourself into it, you get used to it. On New Years Eve I danced for four hours! It is amazing I could still do that at my age and not become winded. I had a little wine that night, but my dietitian said that would be okay. It becomes second nature and you do not even think about it anymore. You just do it!"

Even if that means you must eat your spinach.

Heart Health Meal Plan Freebie - 6 Page PDF Download

Click the picture to download this helpful (FREE!) resource.

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