Mediterranean Diet Improves Heart Health (video)

Grilled vegetables are part of the Mediterranean diet

Grilled vegetables are part of the Mediterranean diet

It’s hard to imagine, but a diet that includes nuts, olive oil and red wine may be good for you. In a new study released yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine,  researchers found that people who practiced the Mediterranean diet were 30% less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. This study confirms what many other studies have found, that the Mediterranean diet can play a key role in heart health.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

If you are not familiar with the Mediterranean style of eating, now is a good time to check it out.  The focus of the diet is fresh fruits and vegetables.  Mediterranean eaters also consume fish at least twice per week and include small amounts of nuts, like almonds, into their diet.  These healthy eaters use small amounts of olive oil to prepare their food and some drink red wine in moderation.

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The Mediterranean diet isn’t necessarily a weight loss plan, but often, people who switch to this plan lose weight.  For many, eating more fruits and veggies each day means eating fewer high calorie snacks.  The diet helps people to feel satisfied during and after mealtime so that they don’t feel too restricted and they stay on the program for life.

Start Your Own Mediterranean Eating Plan

The Mediterranean diet can be healthy for anyone, but especially if you are concerned about your heart health, talk to your doctor to find out if this program might be right for you.  You may also want to meet with a registered dietitian at North Memorial to set up your own healthy eating plan.


Exercise for People with Heart Disease

Work with your physician to develop an exercise plan.

Work with your physician to develop an exercise plan.

Have you been diagnosed with heart disease?  You’re not alone.  More than 1 million Americans suffer a heart attack each year and unfortunately, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and worldwide.  But the good news is that there are things you can do to improve your health and prevent a future heart attack.

First Steps to Better Health

In honor of American Heart Month, the American Council on Exercise offers guidelines to help people with heart disease safely improve their health with exercise.  The first step? Connect with your physician.  Your doctor can clear you for exercise and provide guidelines for staying safe while exercising.  In this short video, North Memorial Medical Center’s Dr. Paul Sander, explains that exercise is part of a comprehensive program to keep your heart healthy for life.

Get Cleared and Get Active

During your meeting, talk to your physician about ways that you can participate in healthy activity .  Your medical history will help both you and your physician develop a plan that works for you.  Use these guidelines as a general guide and talk to your physician about a specific plan to keep you safe while you improve your health with exercise.

Sample Guidelines to Discuss with Your Doctor

  1. Include at least a five-minute warm-up and five-minute cool-down in every exercise session.
  2. Engage in moderate-intensity physical activity such as brisk walking for at least 30 minutes on most, preferably all, days of the week.
  3. Monitor exercise intensity closely. Make sure to stay within your individual heart-rate zone.
  4. Be cautious about engaging in physical activity that is too difficult. If you plan to begin a vigorous program, discuss it thoroughly with your physician.
  5. Inform your physician if you have any abnormal signs or symptoms before, during or after exercise. These include chest pain, extreme fatigue, indigestion or heartburn, excessive breathlessness, ear or neck pain, upper respiratory tract infection, dizziness or racing heart and severe headache.
  6. If prescribed, always carry your nitroglycerin with you, especially during exercise.
  7. Never exercise to the point of chest pain. If you develop chest pain during exercise, call 911 immediately.
  8. Make sure the facility where you exercise is well-equipped in case of an emergency. Ask if the facility has an emergency response plan and an automated external defibrillator (AED), as well as staff trained on how to use it on the premises.

Improve Heart Health After Dinner

file4671234819876There are plenty of meal choices you can make to improve your heart health.  You might choose to eat more veggies with dinner, select foods that are lower in saturated fat, or eat foods containing omega-3 fatty acids.  But you can also improve heart health after dinner.  A new study suggests that a brisk walk after your meal can improve heart health.

Walking Improves Triglyceride Levels

Research published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise found that when a group of young, healthy subjects took a brisk walk after eating a large meal their triglyceride levels were lower than when they walked before dinner or didn’t walk at all.  Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. While having some triglycerides is normal, having too much triglyceride in your blood can increase your risk for heart disease.

While the study was small, it provides one more reason to add more physical activity to your day.  A post-dinner walk gives you time to connect with family members, burn a few extra calories, and in most cases, it replaces less healthy sedentary activities like watching television.

Not sure where to walk?  If cold weather prevents you from walking outdoors, head to the shopping mall to window shop or to an indoor park like Edinborough Park in Edina.  You’ll also find indoor walking tracks at local community centers, gyms and YMCA locations.



Healthy Relationships Promote Healthy Weight Loss

Get support to lose weight.

Get support to lose weight.

Valentine’s Day is a good opportunity to think about the important relationships in your life.  If you are trying to lose weight, those relationships can play a significant role in whether or not you are successful.  Most weight loss experts agree that social support and support from loved ones is a key factor in long-term success.

In a report about weight loss strategies that work, the American College of Preventative Medicine suggests that developing a social network is an important goal if you are trying to lose weight.  So how do you establish that network?  Start by looking around you.  First, get support from family and friends.   Be specific when you ask for help.  For example, you may ask your spouse to support you by getting rid of snack foods that tempt you.

Next, look outside of your close circle for friends or acquaintances who may share a similar goal.  Are there coworkers at work who are trying to lose weight?  Do you belong to a church or community center that has members who are trying to get healthy?  Your neighborhood might be another good source where you can find exercise companions or healthy cooking buddies.  Organize a weekly walk or recipe exchange.

Lastly, remember that the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss program is your source of support.  Talk to your physician about strategies for weight loss and connect with other dieters online and on Facebook and Twitter.  Tell us about your challenges and ask questions.  We want to hear from you!


Healthy Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

Give a healthy Valentine's Day gift.

Give a healthy Valentine’s Day gift.

Have you decided what to get your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day?  If your spouse, partner, friend or family member is trying to get healthy, there are a few gift ideas that are better than buying a big box of chocolates.  Why not show them how much you care about their well being by getting a healthy Valentine’s Day gift this year?

Wine and Chocolate

Believe it or not, these two decadent treats can be healthy, in moderation.  In a Newswire news report, Susan Ofria, clinical nutrition manager at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital explains why.

“Red wine and dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70 percent or higher contain resveratrol, which has been found to lower blood sugar. Red wine is also a source of catechins, which could help improve “good” HDL cholesterol.”

But again, the key is moderation.  A single serving of red wine, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is 5 ounces.  That amount would fill about half of a standard red wine goblet.  A single serving of dark chocolate is one ounce, or about half of a candy bar.

Other Healthy Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

If you prefer to give your sweetie something other than food, think about creative and healthy ways that you can spend time together.  Commit to daily evening walks together, or a weekend visit to the local park for a long hike.  Another way to connect with your sweetheart is by cooking together.  Kitchen in the Market, located in the Midtown Global Market, is a  commercial cooking space that offers a wide range of classes by area chefs.  You can check out their offerings online and at the market.

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3 Things to Ask Your Doctor About Exercise

file4671234819876Do you talk to your doctor about exercise?  You should.  Whether you exercise on a regular basis or not, your primary care provider should be part of the conversation when it comes to the type of activity you do and the amount of exercise you should complete each week.  This short and simple conversation may help you to lose weight and improve your health.

How to Talk to Your Doctor About Exercise

When you meet with your health care provider, talk to him or her about the ways in which a regular exercise program will affect your health and take a few minutes to set a reasonable goal.  You should walk away with these answers to these three questions:

  1. How will exercise affect my health? A program of physical activity, regardless of your weight, provides health benefits.  Your doctor can explain how a reasonable exercise program may lower your risk for certain diseases, like type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome, or how it may be able to help you get off medications for conditions like high blood pressure.
  2. What guidelines should I follow?  If you are new to exercise or if you are not sure what kind of exercise to do, your doctor can help. He or she can offer  general advice for the type of exercise you should do and provide guidelines to make sure that you stay healthy while you workout.  In some cases, your provider may be able to give you a referral to work with an exercise specialist at the Institute for Athletic Medicine.
  3. What is a reasonable goal?  When you talk to your doctor about exercise, set a goal for the amount of exercise you’ll do each week.  Your doctor can make that goal part of your chart and follow up with you on future visits. By setting up this system of accountability, you’re more likely to stick to your commitment.

What if My Doctor Doesn’t Bring Up Exercise?

If the subject of exercise doesn’t come up during your next visit with your health care provider, Mark Bixby, M.D., suggests that the patient should start the conversation.  Dr. Bixby, Medical Director of Clinic Services at North Memorial Medical Center, says that patients should be encouraged to talk about exercise during meetings with their providers.

The North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss Program provides plenty of help for patients who want to start that conversation.  Click on the links below to get more information.

The Biggest Loser: Is it Healthy?

Biggest Loser coaches often yell at their clients.(photo source: Morguefile)

Biggest Loser coaches often yell at their clients.
(photo source: Morguefile)

Are you a fan of The Biggest Loser?  The reality show is in its 14th season and this time they’ve added kids to the mix.  For the first time, several young teenage participants are taking part in the bootcamp-style eating and exercise program.  If you’ve ever watched the show, you know that some rough tactics are used to encourage participants to follow their diets.  Now, because children are involved, there has been greater criticism of those strategies.

NAAFA Condems Biggest Loser

The National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) is a non-profit organization that supports policies aimed at ending discrimination based on size.  They are one of several organizations that has made public statements about the “bullying and stigmatization” that happens on the show. In a statement to the press, Dr. Barbara Altman Bruno, Ph.D., LCSW, author and NAAFA Advisory Board member had this to say.

“I am concerned that The Biggest Loser promotes short-term weight loss and does long-term harm to the bodies, minds, and spirits of many of its contestants and viewers–precipitating eating disorders, weight gain, depression, and weight-based bullying.”

Caring Support for Your Exercise Program

There is no reason to stop watching the show if you enjoy it.  But keep in mind that most exercise professionals do not follow the tactics used by the coaches you see on tv.   There are programs at the Institute for Athletic Medicine, for example, that provide supportive, personalized coaching to beginners based on their own abilities and willingness for change.

If you’ve been intimidated or nervous about starting an exercise program to improve your health, this might be the best first step for you.   Clinic Director Darin Thom, DPT, says “it’s all about setting reasonable goals and starting slow.”

Find out more about how to take advantage of this program by talking to your primary care provider or get more information at the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss website.  And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to get more healthy tips and supportive advice.