A Healthy 17 for 2017

17 ways to love your heart in 2017

We may be nearing the end of February, but it is never too late to start taking good care of your heart!

We asked FHN cardiologists for some tips:

  1. Start with a trip to your healthcare provider for a checkup. This will give you "baseline" information such as your height, weight, and blood pressure and could alert you to any problems.
  2. Keep away from "crispy". Many fast-food restaurants offer a relatively healthy sandwich option – a grilled chicken sandwich. "Crispy" means "fried." You don't have to give up fried foods completely; it's OK to indulge in a treat, but it shouldn't be a daily habit. Try some of our Fruits & Veggies receipes.
  3. Taste before you salt. Do you usually salt your food before you start eating? Have a taste first – it might not need any additional salt!
  4. Get moving. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week, but your heart will benefit from any amount of exercise. You can break up the time, too – hit your goal with some low-impact aerobics in the morning and a brisk walk in the afternoon.
  5. If you smoke, stop. Talk with your healthcare provider about ways to quit, or join FHN's Quit Smoking/Tobacco Cessation Group. Groups start in April, July, and October this year: Call FHN Family Counseling Center at 815-599-7300 for more information.
  6. De-stress. Stress can do more than make you grouchy: It can hurt your heart. You don't have to roll out a yoga mat – try closing your eyes and concentrating on a few deep breaths when you're feeling stressed.
  7. Take care of your teeth. Though it hasn't been proven, there appears to be a connection between healthy teeth and gums and your heart health. Brushing, flossing, and regular cleanings can help keep your mouth healthy.
  8. Substitute. If your recipe calls for heavy cream, use a mixture of equal amounts low-fat milk and evaporated fat-free milk. If you're baking, try substituting 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce for a cup of butter, margarine, oil or shortening.
  9. Spice it up! Use herbs, spices, citrus juices or vinegar instead of salt when you are cooking.
  10. Up your fiber intake. A diet rich in soluble fiber – like oats, black beans, apples, and pears – can help to lower your cholesterol and make you feel full.
  11. Take the stairs. It might not seem like much, but choosing to take the stairs instead of the elevator and finding a parking spot just a bit farther away from the door are good habits. If you work in an office, try walking over to speak with someone instead of sending an email. When you can, move!
  12. Get a good night's sleep. Rest isn't a luxury, so make sure you're getting 7 – 8 hours of good sleep each night.
  13. Watch your fats. Choose lean cuts of meat and low-fat versions of dairy products to cut down on your saturated fats, and avoid trans fats. Check ingredient lists on the foods you buy, and put anything that has "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" in the list back on the shelf.
  14. Watch what you're drinking. Sugary sodas and juice don't add anything but calories to your diet. And treating yourself to a foamy, sweet coffee drink is about the same as having a candy bar.
  15. Limit alcohol. No matter what the latest study says about red wine or hard liquor, drink alcohol in moderation. Don't have more than one or two drinks a day.
  16. Eat healthy. Try to have fish (broiled, baked or grilled – not fried) at least twice a week; it's lean and packed with good nutrients. Fill up on fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
  17. Exercise your stress away. Take a walk to cool down a bit, or turn up the music and dance it out!

"Unhealthy habits can contribute to the development of plaque in your arteries, which can increase your risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke," says FHN cardiologist Prasad Kilaru, FSCAI, FACC. Dr. Kilaru is the director of FHN's cardiac catheterization laboratory. "A healthy diet and regular exercise can help you avoid heart problems, and make you feel better overall, as well."

"We encourage people of all ages and abilities to eat well, get good rest and plenty of exercise," says FHN cardiologist Madhusudan Malladi, MD, FACC, FASE. "Checking in first with your regular healthcare provider is a must - he or she knows your health history and can help you set realistic goals. If you've had heart problems, our cardiac rehabilitation team is here to help."