Tips from the experts for a heart-healthy lifestyle - January 9, 2016

Courtesy of NWI Times

January 31, 2016 9:00 pm • Times Staff

When it comes to good advice about heart health, we went straight to the experts who have their finger on the pulse of the topic: local nurses who work with cardiac patients on a daily basis.

It was a simple question, but all expressed difficulty coming up with a simple answer, because of the myriad factors involved. However, each of them focused on a crucial concept that they wanted to share with readers.

What is your number one tip for a healthy heart?

Virginia Hyland, a critical care nurse at Community Hospital in Munster, said, “It’s important to follow a heart-healthy lifestyle, which includes exercise, eating healthy—a variety of foods, in moderation—following up with your physician for prevention, taking the appropriate medications as needed, and not smoking.”

Dawn Smit, a cardiac rehab charge nurse at Franciscan St. Margaret Health in Hammond, urged people to “know your risk factors and know your numbers, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and weight. And make sure you know what’s normal so you know what lifestyle changes you need to make.”

And for those who have already had a heart problem and are focusing on rehabilitation and recovery, Smit said, “Afterwards, build relationships with people who have also had some type of cardiac event, so you don’t feel so alone. That’s what cardiac rehab is all about.”

For those who are high risk or who have had a heart problem, Barb Ehlers, cardiac nurse at Ingalls Memorial Hospital, pointed out the necessity of being compliant with your health care provider’s advice. “Follow your doctor’s orders!” she said. “Take your prescribed medicines. It’s so important to know your medications and why you’re taking them.”

“My number one recommendation for keeping your heart healthy is to follow a low sodium diet and exercise,” said Jami Jackson, heart failure coordinator at Porter Regional Hospital. “You can modify that if you need to, but eating a low sodium diet is something we stress to our heart failure patients.”

Christina DuBois, a nurse with Methodist Hospitals, adds, “My number one tip for a healthy heart is a good general diet and exercise. Watch what you eat. Stay away from fatty foods, processed meats, as well as canned fruits and vegetables, which contain a lot of salt.”