Tips from local experts to keep your heart healthy - January 27, 2017

Courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana • January 27, 2017

When you want good advice about heart health, don’t forget about the professionals who oversee the all-important components of excellent nutrition, fitness and cardiac rehab. We went straight to some local experts for updates on what they are doing for the community—and practical tips for what you can do to prevent and reduce heart disease.

Barbie Pilla

Customer Care Supervisor

Franciscan Omni Health & Fitness in Chesterton

What is the biggest obstacle to a good fitness routine?

A: People don’t feel that they have enough time to work out. They need to remember that they can’t take of other people properly if they don’t take care of themselves, both with proper nutrition and fitness.

At Franciscan Omni Health & Fitness, we start watching children as young as 6 weeks old so new moms can resume exercising as soon as they want to. It’s nice for them—they can take their time and use our shower facilities, and they also have the social benefits and support from other moms.

Start good habits early: In our Schererville facility we have a Parisi exercise program that is geared for children. It’s not focused on sports; instead, children are learning how to move—without expensive equipment—playing games such as tag.

In our Chesterton facility, we offer programs for children using items such as parachutes and hula hoops to get their heart rates up. Swimming is a great total body exercise that kids love to do. We have therapy pools that are warm, so kids can swim for a long time without getting cold, which can be a problem in traditional pools.

Althea Reid

Clinical Nutrition Patient Services Manager

Methodist Hospitals, Gary/Merrillville

What are some easy tips for good nutrition?

Try to cook low-fat and low-sodium meals; for example, trim fat from meats. Also, eat lots of vegetables. Not everyone has access to fresh vegetables, but frozen vegetables are a good substitute. Canned vegetables are too salty, but low-sodium canned vegetables can be used as a last resort.

Living healthy is popular out there now, so now people at the hospital get curious and ask questions or request menus. I also lead a support group at my church, and from my experience, when people are ready and it clicks, they’ll get it. With a goal of losing a pound a week, one person who was scared about high blood pressure and cholesterol has lost 25 pounds.

Portion control is also important. I love sweets, but I know when to stop eating. Your plate should be half full of vegetables, with a meat serving that’s the size of your palm, and just a handful of a starch.

It’s not rocket science, and we’re turning it around. There are so many vegetables—experiment in the kitchen, and eat the vegetables you love.

Nutrition is so important to heart health, even if you take medications. It’s also important to follow up with your doctor regularly and exercise, and attend cardiac rehab if needed. Methodist Hospitals offers dietitians for outpatient use as well as support groups, and can offer day-to-day diets and instructions for patients when they come in for help.

Erica Hein

Fitness Services Supervisor

Community Hospital Fitness Pointe, Munster

What is a good way to get started on an exercise routine?
Walking is a good activity for beginners; start at 15 minutes a day, and work up from there. For those who are more experienced, interval training includes spurts of higher-intensity activity in between periods of regular intensity. You can do more work in less time, and it also creates chaos in the body that can get a person through a plateau so they can continue to see gains.

It’s important to get your cardiovascular activity, but don’t neglect strength training to keep muscles toned and strong. Having muscle strength improves balance and reduces the risk of falls, especially as you get older. It also reduces the loss of bone density.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes of physical activity in a week. People who can exercise vigorously can do 75 minutes in a week. Those with any health concerns should consult their doctor before beginning exercise.

Marianne Ashby

Cardiac Rehab RN

Porter Regional Hospital, Valparaiso

What are some tips for prevention of heart disease?

Don’t smoke, keep your blood pressure under control, and avoid sleep deprivation. As a society we lose so much more sleep than the generation before us, in part due to the devices such as phones and iPads that we have next to our beds. The lights mess with circadian rhythms and disrupt our sleep patterns.

A lack of sleep causes us to age, and we put on weight, because we eat but our hunger is never satisfied. We see increases in blood pressure, and it eventually leads to coronary artery disease.

We offer sleep education and risk stratification, and our cardiac rehab patients also report better sleep because of the increased exercise.

It’s also very important to reach out to 40 to 50-year-olds who have had heart attacks, open heart surgery or coronary artery disease. Some keep having heart attacks because they can’t make it to cardiac rehab during the work day—the people who need it most can’t make it. For this reason, Porter Regional Hospital’s cardiac rehab facility offers an evening class to accommodate people who work.