Ask a Nutritionist: 10 Tips for a Healthy Heart

Categories: Blog, Health Check

Joanne M. Gallivan, M.S., R.D.N. is a registered Dietitian Nutritionist and volunteer at Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic. Prior to joining the Clinic, she served as the Director of the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP).

February isn’t just for Valentines – it’s also American Heart Month! Heart disease is the leading killer of Americans. In addition, millions of people have high blood pressure and millions are living with heart failure. But there is a lot you can do to prevent  these conditions. Simple lifestyle changes can make a big impact when it comes to heart health.

Show your heart -and others close to you-some love with these 10 tips.

1. Stop smoking. Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your heart and your overall health. Quitting is not easy but it is the most preventable cause of early death. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
2. Know your numbers. Maintaining a healthy weight, blood pressure and total cholesterol plays a major role in keeping your heart healthy. Talk to your doctor about your goals for these factors.
3. Get tested for diabetes. Untreated diabetes can lead to heart disease and other health problems. A simple blood test is used to detect diabetes and you can learn to manage it and stay healthy.
4. Get active. Heart pumping physical activity helps prevent heart disease as well as overall mental health and physical health. Aim for 30 minutes five days a week. You can break these sessions into two or three 10 or 15 minute sessions. Walking, biking, dancing and playing with your kids or grandkids are all great forms of exercise.
5. Build some muscle. Strength training helps to tone muscles, avoid injury, and burn fat. Try to get two days of strength training each week. You don’t have to join a gym. Look for examples of exercises online or check out a DVD at the library.
6. Eat smart. A healthy eating plan is most important to a healthy heart. Make an appointment with the nutritionist at clinic to develop an eating plan that is right for you.
7. Limit junk. Limit your intake of junk foods. Added sugars, saturated fat and too much salt can lead to weight gain, raise your blood pressure and clog heart vessels.  Learn to read labels to make healthy food choices.
8. Stress less. Stress can lead to weight gain and other unhealthy habits. Learn how to manage stress. Talk to your doctor or other health  care professional about ways to cope with stress.
9. Sleep more. Sleeps restores the body, helps decrease stress and can increase overall happiness. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Getting plenty of sunshine and physical activity can aid in improving sleep quality.
10. Smile! A happy heart is a healthy heart. Make time for enjoyable activities and hobbies to relieve stress and improve your mood, all to help you develop a healthy lifestyle.

To learn more about healthy eating and setting a weight loss plan, make an appointment with Joanne Gallivan, RDN, during your next appointment at Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic.

Joanne M. Gallivan, M.S., R.D.N. is a registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She served as the Director of the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) in the Office of Communication and Public Liaison for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 1997-2016.  Previously, Ms. Gallivan has served as project manager for NIDDK’s Weight-Control Information Network (WIN), a national source of information on weight control, obesity, and weight-related nutritional disorders for health professionals and the public; as Contract Manager for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s National Cholesterol Education Program and Obesity Education Initiative, and as Director of the Prince George’s County Health Department Nutrition Division located in Maryland.

Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic is a free clinic in Charleston, SC, that provides free medical care to eligible patients, just like any family practitioner or internist. The Free Clinic serves uninsured adults living at or below 200 % of the Federal poverty level who live or work on Johns, Wadmalaw or James Islands. You can follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.