Working with a Cardiologist to Implement a Heart Healthy Diet and Exercise Habits

Maintaining both a heart healthy diet and a consistent exercise routine has the power to significantly improve an individual’s health. Not only are the aforementioned lifestyle choices and habits integral to any person looking to lose excess weight or sustain a healthy BMI (body mass index), but opting for hearty, nutritious foods and adopting a regular physical activity regimen has the ability to reduce one’s reliance on prescription drugs. However, this is not a journey that any patient should embark upon by themselves. By working with a cardiologist to curate the right diet and exercise plan for the individual, patients are more likely to successfully reduce their dependency on prescription medications to mitigate heart issues. Cardiologists can assist patients in devising a plan of action for both physical activity and nutrition that will not only be easier for the patient to maintain, but that has the potential to result in long-lasting heart and overall health benefits.

Reducing Hypertension with a Heart Healthy Diet

Patients living with hypertension, or high blood pressure, may face great difficulties in their attempts to lower their blood pressure readings. While working with a cardiologist, individuals with high blood pressure may require as many as five medications to successfully bring it down. However, making an effort to implement basic lifestyle changes may result in a patient’s lowered dependence on such medications. Eating right and exercising regularly may only result in minor improvements for those experiencing hypertension, but the outcomes have the potential to be dramatically favorable. Regardless, taking up healthy habits can only be advantageous for an individual’s overall health.

According to Dr. Randall Zusman, a physician who specializes in blood pressure at Massachusetts General Hospital, “a healthy diet that is high in red, green, yellow, orange, and purple foods, and low in salt, carbohydrates, and fats,” is highly recommended and encouraged by medical professionals, specifically for those looking to reduce their blood pressure. Among the numerous health advantages of consuming a colorful diet is that a large percentage of these fruits and vegetables are high in potassium, which is an especially crucial element in the diet of any patient taking a diuretic. Potassium is also incredibly effective in counteracting the blood pressure repercussions associated with high sodium intake. Moreover, patients with high blood pressure are advised to steer clear of salt as much as possible. Opting for fresh foods instead of salt-rich foods like fast foods, cold cuts, canned foods, and even several varieties of cereal may help to significantly reduce hypertension. Additionally, patients with high blood pressure must monitor and regulate their daily alcohol intake. Consuming above the suggested quantity (1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men) of alcoholic beverages on a daily basis has the power to bring about a rise in blood pressure over time.

Furthermore, exercise has the potential to be wonderfully beneficial in lowering blood pressure. If performed on a daily basis, low-impact physical activities that stimulate movement throughout the body. Something as simple as going for a walk in the park can reduce hypertension. Light lifting — via a multitude of reps with weights weighing between 5 and 10 pounds — may also effectively lower blood pressure, along with bad cholesterol. And those who find themselves teetering on the line between elevated and high blood pressure may be able to avoid hypertension completely through the implementation of a consistent exercise routine. Aerobic exercises, like dancing, walking, swimming, jogging, and cycling, are often touted as physical activities that yield serious results for blood pressure reduction. In addition, strength training and high-intensity interval training have also been shown to have great effects on hypertension.

Many patients typically find that their blood pressure increases exponentially as a consequence of unhealthy weight gain. And although the exact rationale behind this phenomenon isn’t widely understood in is entirety, patients who undergo major weight loss tend to experience great reductions in blood pressure as well. Those who are significantly overweight or obese may suffer from sleep apnea, which has historically been proven to raise blood pressure. Individuals looking to both lose weight and reduce hypertension should pay special attention to any excess weight concentrated in the waistline area, as high blood pressure is often directly related to this.

Alleviating Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure

A rather serious illness, congestive heart failure denotes damaged heart muscle resulting in an inability to pump enough blood to properly meet the needs of the body. Effecting 1 in every 5 adults, most typically in the latter half of their lives, congestive heart failure has grown to become a common illness, and patients living with this disease now have various treatment options at their disposal. Although prescribed medications are quite fruitful in terms of lowering individuals’ risk of heart disease, drugs are far from the only avenue available to patients looking to minimize heart health threats.

Tamara Horwich, a cardiologist and medical director of UCLA’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, advises patients to take proactive steps to mitigate their risk for health problems, like high blood pressure and bad cholesterol, that may ultimately put them in danger of congestive heart failure. According to Dr. Horwich, “physical activity five or more days a week and a healthy, plant-based diet are key” to avoiding heart muscle injury. Consuming a diet that is abundant in fruits and vegetables (five or more servings per day), nuts, legumes, lean meats, fish, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, all while simultaneously keeping away from processed foods will undoubtedly result in positive heart health outcomes. Monitoring sodium intake is also critical to alleviating one’s risk of congestive heart failure. Cutting down on the salt can help the body to reduce its fluid retention, in turn, lessening any swelling experienced in the legs and feet. And a healthy dosage of physical activity can provide assistance to the heart, both strengthening it and lessening its burdens.

Working with Your Cardiologist

Patients looking to improve upon their heart health, whether that means making small adjustments to food intake, initiating a complete heart healthy diet overhaul, or implementing a consistent exercise regime, should not initiate this all on their own. With an immense wealth of knowledge on the multitude of heart health benefits that healthy eating and regular physical activity can offer to patients, Dr. Beheshtian is an interventional cardiologist who has treated over 1000 patients, in New York and elsewhere. She is extremely well-informed and experienced regarding treatment paths for various types of cases, mild or complex. Please feel free to contact Avicenna Cardiology’s office with any questions. Schedule a telehealth appointment or come in soon to see Dr. Beheshtian, who will work with you to create a care plan.

About the Author

Azadeh Beheshtian

Azadeh Beheshtian is board certified in cardiovascular disease and internal medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She specializes in interventional cardiology and peripheral artery disease, with a focus on women’s heart health.