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Success Strategies To Fight Cardiovascular Desease

By: Ann Marie Coppen

Anne Marie Coppen

PhD, FNP, Nurse Practitioner

For a personal response to your health question, Ask Ann Marie at askannmarie@lindora.com. Selected questions will be featured in future columns.


“Living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be hard. It just takes the motivation to change our bad habits into good healthy ones.”

I’m very overweight and have a family history of heart trouble.  My wife is worried it might happen to me too.

You are very lucky to have a wonderful family member who cares about you, your health, and wants to have you around for many years to come.  Carrying excess weight, as many drivers do, can place a strain on your heart.  The lifestyle choices you make every day have a direct and cumulative effect on your health. While one high-fat meal or a day without exercise aren’t likely to do lasting damage, the patterns you establish over weeks, months and years definitely have an impact on your health and longevity. Here are some success strategies to help you fight cardiovascular disease and live a healthier life.

1. Calories in, calories out! Make a choice to burn as many calories as you can with the goal of at least burning the calories you take in. A great strategy to increase the number of calories you burn every day is to increase your level of activity.

2. Move more! Exercise helps to improve blood flow, strengthen the heart muscle, reduce blood pressure, reduce blood sugar and raise the level of your good cholesterol (HDL). Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. If you can do more, go for it! In addition to helping you lose weight, physical activity will help you achieve cardiovascular fitness. And if you can’t find 30 minutes in your day, don’t worry. Research shows that three ten-minute sessions are just as effective.  Don’t sabotage yourself, you can find ten-minutes in your day to move more.

3. Stay hydrated. Be sure to drink a minimum of 60 to 80 ounces of water every day. Water is the best hydration fluid. Avoid too much caffeine, as it can actually dehydrate you.

4. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients and they’re also typically low in calories. Motivation and Preparation are keys to success.  Get yourself a cooler and stock up for a few days and, when you can, stop and buy some fresh fruit and veggies.

5. Choose whole grain foods. Avoid white bread and processed flour. Choose unrefined whole grain foods which contain fiber that can help lower blood cholesterol and also help you to feel full.

6. Choose lean proteins. Choose lean meats and poultry (without the skin) and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat (try to avoid frying at all cost). Select fat-free and low-fat dairy products. Eat fish at least twice per week. Research shows that eating oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, trout and herring) may help lower your risk of coronary artery disease.

7. Eat less of the nutrient-poor foods. Limit foods and beverages that are high in calories but low in nutrients, and limit how much saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium you eat (you can identify these amounts on the nutrition fact label).  Challenge yourself for a few days.  Say ‘NO’ to the candy, chips and soda and watch how much better you begin to feel in a very short period of time.  Your energy level goes up, fatigue goes down.

8. Read the nutrition labels carefully. Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce the trans fat in your diet (you want to consume the least amount of trans fat possible).

9. Cut back on foods that are high in cholesterol. Aim to eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day.

10. Reduce or eliminate foods and beverages with added sugars.

11. Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Aim to eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.

12. Drink alcohol in moderation. Limit alcohol to one drink per day if you’re a woman and two drinks per day if you’re a man. If you are trying to lose weight, it’s best to eliminate alcohol.

13. If you smoke, stop!

By integrating these changes into your life, you’ll improve how you look and feel—and reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.  Go home and give your wife a hug!

I’m wondering if all the years of yo-yo dieting have affected my metabolism. If so, how do I “fix” it?

It is a myth that ‘yo-yo’ dieting causes a permanent change in your metabolism.  Yo-yo dieting will have an influence on lowering your metabolism at the time that you are dramatically reducing your calorie intake.  However it is not permanent, when you stop the yo-yo dieting the metabolism will slowly return to normal.

The metabolic rate is the rate in which the body burns calories.

There are many factors that determine what your metabolic rate is, this includes:

  • Your age
  • Level of daily activity
  • Muscle to fat proportions

The bottom line is that if you eat sensibly, exercise and build muscle through strength or resistance training, you can boost your metabolism.  So throw some dumbbells or resistance bands in your truck and pump some iron whenever you have a moment.  Or, drop down and if possible start doing some push-ups.  Start slow, on the side of the truck or against a wall.  Plan on increasing the number of reps a little bit every week.  Strength training is crucial to successful weight loss.

Yo-yo dieting is not healthy, so let’s start on the path of being lean for life!

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