The Importance of Exercise and a Healthy Diet for Heart Health

Exercise for Heart Health
Eating healthy and getting regular exercise are important for everyone, but it’s especially important for those suffering from diabetes or heart disease. The cornerstone of treating these conditions is an attention to lifestyle. It’s time to be heart smart.
Regular activity is key to managing diabetes—along with proper eating and meal planning. With diabetes, there is an increased risk of suffering from certain health conditions like heart attack and stroke, so a heart-healthy lifestyle is especially important. Exercise can lower blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol, help you lose or maintain weight, improve circulation and even strengthen your heart.
Exercise is also one of the best moves you can make for heart disease. Cardiovascular and aerobic exercise benefit the heart most, so try activities like walking, jogging, bicycling, skiing, skating and rowing. Staying active will even help you manage stress and may improve congestive heart failure symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, as well as the need for medications. It also decreases the likelihood of heart failure and can reduce your risk of heart attacks by 25 percent.
Healthy Eating
People with heart disease often are dealing with the result of too many years of eating saturated fats and not enough fruits and vegetables. To keep your weight under control and build a beneficial eating program, follow these tips:
  • Cut your meat intake—especially red meat. Animal products and saturated fats go hand in hand, so consider swapping the high saturated fats in red meat for chicken or fish.
  • Count the fat grams on your foods and read the labels on packaged foods. Anything with more than two grams of saturated fat is usually counted as doing more harm than good.
  • Bulk up on plant foods and vegetables that are high in fiber. Fresh produce and beans help lower blood pressure.
Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation
If you’ve already had open-heart surgery or other procedures to treat coronary artery disease and other heart conditions, you may benefit from cardiopulmonary rehab. This program of health education, exercise training and counseling helps patients build a heart-healthy lifestyle.
SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital offers safe, monitored exercise programs to heal and strengthen your heart. A personalized fitness program is crucial to combat the inactivity that is the greatest risk to your health. The team of nurses, educators and dieticians can help you modify and identify your risk factors and achieve your goals. They are your personal trainers—from walking in the hospital during your stay, to rehab and optional maintenance programs, they will help you continue the healthy progress you’ve already achieved.
Before you begin any diet or exercise program, talk to your cardiologist or primary care physician about setting up a routine that is safe for you.
For more information about cardiopulmonary rehab services, call 573-681-3749.

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