Heart Healthy Diet, Fitness and Weight Management

Heart Healthy Diet, Fitness and Weight Management

Obesity is a national epidemic and increases the risk of many medical problems including diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, risk of heart attack or stroke and cardiovascular disease. An estimated two-thirds of American adults are currently either overweight or obese. The fundamental cause of this obesity epidemic is that more calories are being taken in as food than are expended by physical activity. Below are some tips toward managing a healthy lifestyle:

“Reprogram” the Way you Eat:      

It is not uncommon for me to hear the frustration of my patients with their difficulty losing weight. Unfortunately, our genetics work against us. It is important to recognize that human beings evolved as hunter-gatherers and are genetically ‘programmed’ to take in large amounts of calorie dense when it is available and to conserve energy whenever possible. That makes it easy for us to overeat and hard to get off the couch and get moving for physical activity. In our modern society, food is abundantly and readily available, most people now work in sedentary jobs and we drive rather than walk places. These instincts work against us and helps promote weight gain. Becoming aware of these preprogrammed instincts is the first step in combating them.

Be Aware of Serving Sizes:

There has been a steady increase in serving sizes over the past two decades leading to increased caloric intake. Most Americans gain almost two pounds per year, which could be avoided by consuming 100-200 fewer calories a day or by burning that many more calories a day through physical activity.

Exercise Regularly:

Schedule your exercise into your day and make it a priority. Guidelines now recommend a minimum 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week and 60 – 90 minutes a day to manage or lose weight. Importantly, studies show that maintaining physical fitness, regardless of your current weight or weight loss, will lower your overall cardiovascular and medical risk. Don’t stop exercise if you become frustrated with inability to lose weight.

Eat a Healthy Diet:

As a practicing cardiologist I am frequently asked, “What kind of foods should I be eating to prevent a heart attack?” The same diet that will help prevent cardiovascular disease can also help prevent weight gain and help with weight loss. Unfortunately, we are bombarded by confusing and often conflicting information about our diet from various sources such as the media or Internet. Diets such as the Atkins Diet, Zone Diet and Sugar Busters Diet promise weight loss but do not necessarily equal a ‘heart healthy diet’.

Making wise food choices should become second nature. Updated dietary guidelines recommend 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, increased intake of whole grains instead of refined grains like white bread, nonfat dairy products and lean meats. Most fats should come in the form of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats like fish, nuts, vegetable oils such as canola oil or olive oil and more. Saturated fats and trans-fats should be avoided. Additionally, cut back on or avoid ‘empty calories’ from junk food or sweets.

Be patient

If you struggle with your weight or are frustrated by inability to lose weight I highly recommend a few things. Work with your physician, a registered dietician and an exercise specialist to help you safely reach your goals. Be patient, set reachable goals and once attained, then set new goals to strive for. Celebrate your success and don’t be discouraged by lack of progress.


Good luck and be well!

Dr Green