Personalized Guidelines for Living with Heart Disease

WalkingThe cardiac team at the Skagit Regional Health Heart and Vascular Institute is dedicated to improving the heart health of our patients. Part of this commitment to wellness involves educating patients on how to limit further risk by understanding the leading causes of heart disease, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

By making small lifestyle changes now, you can make a big impact on your heart health for a lifetime.

Dietary Choices Can Boost Heart Health

What you eat and don’t eat makes a major impact on the prevention and treatment of heart disease. Eating a heart-healthy diet is very important to getting healthy and preventing future complications. Following these basic guidelines will help you on a path to heart health:

  • Choose fat calories wisely (eat good fats like avocados, nuts and fish over bad fats like burgers, chips or pizza)
  • Eat a variety of plant-based foods and just the right amount of protein foods
  • Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes
  • Limit dietary cholesterol
  • Place less emphasis on sodium and increase your potassium, magnesium and calcium intake through your diet
  • Use complex carbohydrates (whole grains and fruits) for energy and limit intake of simple carbohydrates (soda and desserts)

Planning Delicious Meals with the DASH Diet

The DASH Diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is a Mediterranean-style diet that lets you create a healthy heart eating style. The DASH Diet is rich in whole grains, vegetables and fish as well as omega-3 fatty acids – all of which are better for your heart than the typical Western diet of processed foods, meats and saturated fats. With the DASH Diet, you select your own foods from the provided choices, count your own calories and measure portions.

DASH Diet Guidelines

  • Choose foods high in antioxidants
  • Choose foods high in B vitamins which are good for the heart
  • Choose foods high in flavonoids
  • Choose foods with phytochemicals
  • Choose whole grains
  • Eat heart-healthy fats
  • Limit foods high in saturated fats such as fatty meats or trans fats
  • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages and foods
  • Lose weight or stay at a desired weight
  • Limit sodium intake

Healing Your Heart by Moving More

Physical activity is essential for the healing process. If you have just returned home after a heart attack or heart procedure, you may feel tired and weak because of damage to your heart muscles. The following guidelines will help as you become more active:

  • Pace yourself and spread your activities throughout the day. If you become tired, rest.
  • Walk every day as prescribed by your doctor. Walking is a good way to regain your energy, but be sure to ask your doctor what amount of exercise is best for you. The goal is 30 minutes per day at least five days per week, but you must work up to it.
  • When you’re feeling stronger, you can return to household chores and daily activities.
  • Do not lift, push or pull heavy objects until you are cleared by your doctor to do these activities.
  • Your doctor will tell you when you can resume work, driving and more strenuous activities.

Resuming Sexual Activity After a Heart Attack

Sexual activity can usually be resumed shortly after your hospital visit unless you have had recent surgery. Sexual activity is like climbing stairs or taking a brisk walk. If you cannot perform these activities without getting angina, or chest pain, shortness of breath or feeling tired, talk with your doctor. Do not be afraid to bring up sexual activity with your provider. There are good answers available. With your partner, be sure to:

  • Be caring, honest and loving with each other
  • Communicate
  • Have sex when you are rested and physically comfortable
  • Ask your doctor about medications that may interfere with sexual arousal and performance

Preventing Future Heart Problems with a Lifestyle Approach

Use the following tips to prevent further heart problems:

  • Change your lifestyle – stop smoking, control blood pressure, manage diabetes and improve diet and exercise habits
  • Engage in cardiac rehab and heart-healthy fitness
  • Take your medications as directed by your doctor