Heart Healthy Diet

Heart Healthy Diet

Heart Healthy Diet

By Mackenzie Distad, EP-C, BS 

ACSM  Certified Exercise Physiologist/Exercise Specialist

Living a healthy lifestyle is the best way you can prevent or fight cardiovascular disease. Important components of a healthy lifestyle include regular exercise and physical activity, as well as eating a heart healthy diet. What you eat can increase or decrease your risk of heart disease. But which foods are good and how do you get started? It can be tough to change all of your eating habits at once so here are a few ideas to move you towards a more heart healthy diet.

Look at portion sizes

The amount of food you eat is just as important as the types of food you are eating. Have you seen the huge portion sizes served in restaurants!?! Meal portions are growing the in US, so it is important to examine how much you are consuming at mealtime. Try using a smaller dinner plate or bowl at home. If you eat out at a restaurant, box a portion of your meal up right away to take home. Try to practice mindful eating: Do not eat until you feel stuffed or very full; try to eat until you are satisfied and save the rest for later. It is also important to read food labels at the grocery store. Keep an eye on the portion sizes described on the nutrition facts panels.

Eat more fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetable are great sources of vitamins and minerals, are low in calories and high in dietary fiber. Eating more healthy fruits and vegetables can help to prevent cardiovascular disease and may help you avoid eating high-fat foods. Introducing or increasing vegetables and fruits in your daily diet can be easy: Keep them washed and cut in the fridge so they are easy to grab as a quick snack throughout the day. You can also mix them into meals, like in a stir fry, or use them as a side.

Whole grains

Try to make your grains whole grains. Whole grains are full of fiber and other nutrients that help to control blood pressure. Things to look for include whole-wheat flour, whole-grain bread, brown rice, whole-grain pasta and oatmeal. It is important to read the food labels with some of these foods. For example; when purchasing bread, make sure the first ingredient is whole grain or whole wheat flour – not enriched or refined flours. Starting to introduce these whole grains to your diet will help you to be living more heart healthy.

Limit unhealthy fats

Try to cut down on the amount of saturated and trans fats in order to lower your levels of bad cholesterol. High levels of bad cholesterol in your blood can lead to a buildup of plaques in the arteries – increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke. When you do use fats in cooking, etc., choose monounsaturated fats like olive oil or canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats are also good choices for a heart healthy diet. These can be found in certain fish, avocados, nuts and seeds. It is important to remember moderation with all fats though. All types are still high in calories.

ExercisAbilities has an in-house Dietician who can provide one-on-one Nutrition Counseling.

Choose low-fat protein sources

Try to stick to consuming lean meat, poultry and fish, low-fat dairy products, and eggs. There is also protein in foods like legumes (beans, peas and lentils), soybeans and tofu that are low in fat. These are plant proteins that are lower in fat and bad cholesterol than animal proteins.

Reduce sodium consumption

Eating a lot of sodium can have a large impact on your blood pressure – a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults have no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (about a teaspoon). The easiest way to start reducing the amount of sodium you consume is to look at the food labels and reduce the amount of restaurant food you eat. The largest contributors to sodium in our diets is not what we add at the table, but is the sodium in restaurant and processed/pre-packaged foods.

Allow yourself an occasional treat

Allow yourself a treat every once in a while! A candy bar or a few potato chips won’t ruin your heart healthy eating efforts. Enjoy your special occasion dinners with family or friends – but don’t let it turn into a regular occurrence. If you start to incorporate these changes in your eating habits, you will find that eating a heart healthy diet is reasonable and can still be enjoyable.

LEARN TO BE FIT – Exercise and Diet Program

ExercisAbilities knows healthy eating is quite the change for some. That’s why we continue to offer our Learn To Be Fit program.  This year long program combines counsel on proper diet, peer support, accountability and exercise. It’s a great way to make a healthy lifestyle change. Check out the next Learn to Be Fit class on our webpage and get registered today!

For more information on heart health and heart healthy eating, check out the American Heart Association’s website www.heart.org or www.mayoclinic.org.

Symptoms of Heart Failure

Symptoms of Heart Failure

By Mackenzie Distad, EP-C, BS 

ACSM  Certified Exercise Physiologist/Exercise Specialist

Heart Health Month at ExercisAbilities

We’re right in the middle of Heart Month 2018 at ExercisAbilities and still striving to raise awareness on all things heart health related. Earlier this month, I wrote about the signs of a heart attack. Heart attack and heart failure are both heart related but two different things. Today, I want to talk to you about heart failure and the signs you may see as the heart muscle weakens.

Heart Failure is the term used to describe a heart that can no longer keep up with the needs of the body. The heart muscle is weakened and is not pumping out as much blood (or oxygen) as the rest of the body needs to function.

Symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Shortness of breath (even at rest)
  • nausea or loss of appetite
  • chronic fatigue
  • lightheadedness
  • confusion
  • chronic coughing/wheezing
  • high heart rate
  • build-up of fluid in body tissues (edema)


If you are noticing any particular symptoms of heart failure, take action and contact a healthcare professional. Certain tests and scans can be used to determine if you have heart failure and what stage it might be in.

Though heart failure is a chronic condition, the symptoms can be managed and you can live a full and enjoyable life with it. Along with medications, lifestyle changes such as eating a heart-healthy/low-sodium diet and getting regular exercise, can help to control symptoms and progression of heart failure.

For more information on heart failure, visit the American Heart Association website at www.heart.org where you will find additional, valuable resources such as the Self-check Heart Failure Management Guide.


You can help with our 2018 Goals: 200 Twitter followers and 800 Facebook followers!

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February is Heart Health Month

February is Heart Health Month

It’s Heart Health Month at ExercisAbilities and all across the United States.  The first American Heart Month was proclaimed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in February 1964. At that time more than half of the deaths in the US were caused by cardiovascular disease. From then on, February has been annually designated as American Heart Month.

This month we will focus on all things heart healthy and that is an amazingly complex topic. Heart health can be as simple as exercise for some and as complex as heart surgery for others. At ExercisAbilities we will work with you as you strive to make healthy choices for your heart health.

Heart Healthy Eating

Eating right is the foundation to a lot of your health including your heart health. Heart-healthy eating includes eating vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, lean meats, fish, nuts and more. But it’s not really that simple because even the smartest of us can take a healthy apple and turn it in to a sugar-loaded piece of apple-pie with whipped cream AND ice cream on top.

Heart healthy eating includes eating the right things, prepared the right way. Try to avoid packaged foods (high in sodium) and eat fresh! There are all kinds of heart-healthy diet and recipe websites out there for you, just google “Heart Healthy Recipes” or “Heart Healthy Diet” to find one.

Perhaps the best thing to get you started on your heart-healthy eating habits is a visit with our dietician, Laurie Brengman. Laurie is a licensed dietician and can provide a one-on-one consultation. We also have a great group class, Learn To Be Fit, which teaches you both how to eat right and get started on an exercise program.

Heart Healthy Weight Management

The more body fat you have the more likely you are to develop coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers.  A healthy weight for adults is usually when your body mass index (BMI) is between 18.5 and 24.9. But how the heck do you compute your BMI? Here is a  BMI calculator to help you get an estimate.  If you are overweight or obese, try to lose weight. Losing just 5% of your current weight can improve your blood pressure and losing a bit more can help you prevent pre-diabetes from becoming Type 2 Diabetes. Losing 5-10% of your current weight also helps lower triglycerides and glucose levels, lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol! Health professionals recommend losing 5 to 10 percent of your initial weight over the course of about 6 months.

Join our Learn to Be Fit class in April to get started with both a diet and exercise program or use our open gym hours to exercise on your own.

Heart Healthy Exercise

Eating right and losing weight are important factors to heart health. But what if you already eat right and are at a healthy weight? Are you set for life? Well, you’re doing great, but health professionals agree that routine exercise is key to your continued heart health.

ExercisAbilities Parkinson Wellness Recovery Moves 2 class
ExercisAbilities Parkinson Wellness Recovery Moves 2 class

Everyone should try to participate in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day for most days.  If you can’t do 30 minutes of exercise at once, try at least 10 minutes at time, several times in the day. Any exercise in which your heart beats fasters and you use more oxygen than usual is good aerobic exercise.  The more active you are, the more you will benefit.

Talk with your doctor before you start a new exercise plan. Ask your doctor how much and what kinds of physical activity are safe for you.

Managing Stress

It stresses me out thinking about how many things can stress us out. With a little training we can learn how to recognize our stressors and how to cope with them in a healthy way.  Otherwise, we may cope with our stress in a way that causes more stress: drinking alcohol, drug abuse, smoking, overeating, avoidance.

Stress isn’t healthy for our hearts! Stress can contribute to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risks which may later lead to cardiovascular disease.

Fortunately, there are many healthy ways to manage stress:

At ExercisAbilities, the Learn To Be Fit Program teaches us how to recognize the stress factors in our lives that may cause some of us to over-eat.  Our program also helps get you started on an exercise plan and gives you access to our open gym hours to exercise on your own.

Quit Smoking

If you smoke, quit.  Smoking can raise your risk for coronary heart disease and heart attack and worsen other coronary heart disease risk factors.

A normal habit is hard to break. Breaking an addictive habit is tough, tough, tough. For those of you that have done it, “Well done! Good Job! You’re amazing!”. For those of you in the midst of your efforts, “You can do it! Keep going! Don’t give up!”.

For anyone trying to break a bad habit, you’re not alone. There are many people on the same road and many programs to help you with your goals.

Learn more about quitting smoking at Smoking and Your Heart Health Topic.

A Heart Healthy You

ExercisAbilities is committed to working with all our clients on goals to a healthy heart. We have a Stroke Recovery Program for those who have suffered a stroke. We have a dietician, physical therapists and exercise specialists available to partner with you as you work on your healthy heart. Our Learn To Be Fit program is a great way to get started on a healthy diet and exercise routine. Don’t delay you heart health any longer. Call us for a free Fitness Assessment and get started on your heart health today.


Reference: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-healthy-lifestyle-changes

You can help with our 2018 Goals: 200 Twitter followers and 800 Facebook followers!

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Signs of a Heart Attack

Mackenzie Distad, EP-C, BS 

ACSM  Certified Exercise Physiologist/Exercise Specialist

It’s Heart Month at ExercisAbilities and across the USA, a month dedicated to raising awareness about heart health. There are all kinds of heart related health topics we’ll be discussing but one of the most urgent is how to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack.

The symptoms of a heart attack are different for each person, so they can be difficult to distinguish. Someone having a heart attack may experience one, none, or all of these symptoms. The signs and symptoms also differ between men and women.  While heart attacks occur most frequently in our older population, they can happen to anyone, at any age so don’t ignore these signs just because you are “too young”. It is important to pay attention to your body and act fast.

Common symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Pain, pressure or tightness in the chest

  • Numbness or tingling in the back, arm, neck or jaw

  • Shortness of breath at rest

  • Lightheadedness, nausea/vomiting

  • Cold sweat

If you or anyone you see/know is experiencing symptoms, call 911 immediately. Every minute matters with a heart attack so do not delay, even if you are doubtful you are having a heart attack.

You can help with our 2018 Goals: 200 Twitter followers and 800 Facebook followers!

Follow us on  Twitter @Exercisabilitie and  Facebook @Exercisabilities