Dr. M.J. Bazos,
Exercise: For a Healthy Heart
How does what I eat affect my heart?
The food you eat can affect the way
blood flows through your heart and arteries. A diet high in fat and cholesterol
can gradually cause a buildup (called "plaque") in your arteries that slows down
the blood flow and even block small arteries. If the blockage happens in an
artery that carries blood to the heart muscle, the heart muscle can die. That's
a heart attack. If the blockage happens in an artery that carries blood to the
brain, part of the brain can die. That's a stroke (also called a brain attack).
The right diet helps keep your arteries clear and reduces the risk of heart
problems and stroke. Keeping your heart healthy by watching what you eat isn't
as hard as it sounds!
Tips for a
- Eat less fat (especially butter, coconut and palm
oil, saturated or hydrogenated vegetable fats like Crisco, animal fats in meats,
fats in dairy products).
- Use nonstick vegetable oil cooking sprays, not
- Buy lean cuts of meat; reduce portion size to 3
- Eat more fish, skinless chicken and turkey.
- Try low-fat snacks (baked chips instead of
- Use skim milk and low-fat cheese, yogurt and
- Buy sherbet, ice milk or frozen low-fat yogurt.
- Have a bagel or muffin instead of a donut or
- Eat no more than 4 egg yolks a week (use egg
whites or egg substitutes).
- Bake, broil, steam or grill foods instead of
- Eat fewer "fast foods" (burgers, fried foods),
which are high in fat.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables and carbohydrates
(rice, pasta, breads, grains).
How much should I weigh?
Talk to your family doctor to answer
this question, because every person is different. If you're overweight, the
extra pounds put extra stress on your heart. Losing weight will help your heart
stay healthy. But even though people talk about weight, it's really how much fat
you have that matters.
Why is exercise
good for my heart?
your heart stronger, helping it pump more blood with each heartbeat. The blood
then delivers more oxygen to your body. Exercise can also lower blood pressure,
reduce your risk of heart disease and reduce levels of LDL ("bad" cholesterol),
which clogs the arteries and can cause a heart attack. At the same time,
exercise can raise levels of HDL ("good" cholesterol), which helps protect
against heart disease. Exercise is the best way to lose weight. Burning calories
and working off the fat will help you look and feel better. Regular exercise
helps you burn calories faster, even when you're sitting still.
What's the best type of exercise
for my heart?
causes you to breathe more deeply and makes your heart work harder to pump
blood. Aerobic exercise also raises your heart rate (which also burns calories).
Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, running, swimming and
How much exercise do I
You should slowly work up to
30 minutes, 4 to 6 times a week. Your doctor may make a different recommendation
based on your health. If you haven't exercised for a while it may be best to
start with a couple of minutes of exercise and work up to a half hour. One sign
that you may be overdoing it is if you can't carry on a conversation while you
exercise. It is best to alternate exercise days with rest days to prevent
How will I fit exercise
into my busy schedule?
stairs instead of the elevator. Walk during a coffee break or lunch. Walk to
work or park at the end of the parking lot so you have to walk farther. Walk
more briskly. Do housework at a quicker pace and more often (like vacuuming
every day). Rake leaves, push the lawn mower or do other yard