Tips for the Change of Heart Program

It’s more than a diet, but a chance to change your lifestyle and begin to change your cardiac destiny.

There are 4 main aspects to the program:

  1. The diet
  2. Exercise
  3. Dealing with the effects of stress
  4. Understanding what is going in your body and heart

Points to remember about your diet:

  • The Mediterranean diet is rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats-and includes lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid simple carbohydrates like sugar, white bread and plain pasta, and try to eat as many complex carbohydrates as possible. This includes multigrain breads and whole wheat pasta
  • Avoid drinks that have lots of sugar -like soda and many fruit juices. Try adding just a bit of juice to plain old water
  • Increase the fiber in your diet up to 40 gm per day - but do this slowly!
  • Begin a food log - write down what you eat
  • Cut out snacks
  • Pack an "emergency" food to eat if you get hungry - like a bag of cut vegetable
  • Eat a healthy snack before you eat out -you will eat less
  • The more cooking at home the better
  • Don’t eat late at night

Points to remember about exercise:

  • Exercise 30-45 minutes at a time, 5 or 6 times per week
  • Aerobic exercise is best for the heart. It can lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, and increase the blood supply to your heart
  • You can add a bit of weight lifting later if you like, but start with walking, jogging, swimming, biking, elliptical trainer (aerobic)
  • The type of exercise that is best for you is the one that you enjoy the most
  • Visualize the effect that exercise is having on your heart - it will make your arteries healthier and your heart stronger
  • Create a fun environment around your exercise
  • Do not plan on always exercising outside - if it is freezing it is not ideal for your heart
  • Indoor choices include a gym, home, or even the mall (especially before it opens for shoppers
  • Find a friend to exercise with
  • Make up little "tricks" to get motivated. For example, plan to just exercise for 5 or 10 minutes if you are having a bad day. Usually, you will feel better and keep going
  • Plan ahead. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Major points to remember when dealing with stress in your life:

  • Stress can cause your blood pressure to go up, increase inflammation in your body, make your blood thicker, and cause the coronary arteries to narrow - all of which increases your risk of having a heart attack.
  • Joining an organization, having friends and relationships, or being active in your church or synagogue can reduce your risk of having a heart attack by helping reduce the stress in your life
  • Activities like yoga, tai chi or meditation help reduce stress and help your heart
  • Deep breathing exercises can calm you down and decrease your stress level
  • Try to identify the stresses in your life. Write them down. Talk about them with a friend - you may be surprised how silly they may sound
  • Try to avoid taking medications for stress - many are addictive and do not help the underlying problem
  • Hypnosis, massage therapy and acupuncture help some people deal with stress
  • Cut down the amount of caffeine and sugar that you drink - they can actually increase your level of stress
  • Although one drink of alcohol may help at times, remember that more than one drink can hurt your heart.
  • Try to laugh as many times a day as possible - laughter decreases your stress and anxiety.

Points to remember about preventing heart disease:

  • Understanding what is going on inside your body can empower you to make the kind of lifestyle changes that are so important for your health
  • Blockages inside your arteries are what can cause a heart attack, and these blockages can improve when you change your llife
  • These blockages are aggravated when you smoke cigarettes, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or if you have a family history of heart disease
  • Before you start the program, have you cholesterol checked and see your doctor. Tell your doctor if you are having any chest discomfort or shortness of breath BEFORE you start your exercise program
  • Know your good cholesterol (HDL), bad cholesterol (LDL), Triglycerides (fat), and Total Cholesterol values before you start the program
  • Know what medications you are taking and what they are supposed to do. Ask your doctor if changing your lifestyle and losing weight may mean taking less medication
  • If you exercise regularly, do not smoke, follow a good diet, and are not overweight, your risk of heart disease is greatly decreased
  • Inflammation of the arteries of the heart is just as important as cholesterol, and is decreased by losing weight, exercising regularly, and by decreasing the stress in your life.
  • Cholesterol medications can help - if you have had a heart attack or bypass you will likely need them. If you do not have heart disease, ask your doctor if trying a program like Change of Heart is worth trying before you begin a lifetime of medication.
  • Check your cholesterol again after 10 weeks of the program - you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Hints about supplements:

  • Red yeast rice can help lower your cholesterol. However, if you have had a heart attack, bypass surgery or a stent, it might not be right for you- you may need a statin
  • Do not take a statin with your red yeast rice
  • Fish oil may be a good supplement to take, but check out the kind you are taking- pharmaceutical grade fish oil with lots of DHA and EPA is best
  • Supplements are not regulated, and it is hard to know if your brand is a good one
  • Other supplements such as garlic and poliscosinol,do not help lower your cholesterol
  • Vitamin D is a good supplement and recent information suggests it may help your heart
  • Do not "supplement" your diet with red wine to help lower your cholesterol- if you like a glass of wine please enjoy it, but it probably does not do much for your cholesterol
  • A good diet like that of Change of Heart means that you do not need many supplements- you will get your nutrients from your diet
  • Red yeast rice may be helpful if you cannot take statins because of muscle aching
  • Use supplements with your doctor’s advice and consent!