Namaedwards
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Namaedwards, February 4,  2020  9:01pm EST

Lifestyle changes

Hi,

So I've been going for regular half hour walks, taking my meds regularly and reducing salt/sodium intake and trying to eat healthier. Was wondering what are some of the things folks here do to eat healthy. I'm looking to hear about steps taken to ensure healthier eating. What are some of the things you've followed?

Hope everyone is doing ok

6 Replies
  • AHAASAKatie
    AHAASAKatie, February 5,  2020  12:57pm EST

    Thank you so much for sharing this question with us! I can direct you to the information we have on Healthy Living . Here you will find tips and information on how to make the necessary changes. Please know that we are here with you and understand the struggle! Best Katie

  • JamesPL
    JamesPL, February 5,  2020  11:32pm EST

    Hi Namaedwards,

    This is always a challenge especially after you've been used to a certain diet for so many years. I addressed it in a few ways. I have made it a point to avoid foods that are obviously unhealthy. These include things like french fries, bacon, potato chips...etc. Generally processed foods are good to avoid. I eat a lot more salads than I did before I had heart problems. I also make it a point to eat fish at least a couple of times a week. My wife and I also eat as much organic food as we can although this can be expensive. Even when I go out to eat, I try to stick to a healthier diet. I'll look at a salad but I will usually add grilled salmon or chicken simply because a salad alone will leave me hungry after a short while. I will eat red meat on occasion but it will be organic grass fed and very lean. As difficult as it can be, my cardiologist told me I can have some of the foods I used to enjoy so much but just to not make it a habit.

    By the way, it's great that you are taking the walks. Stick with that as much as possible. While it may not be as important as diet, I believe that exercise and diet in combination are your best defense in protecting and strengthening your heart.

    Good luck!

    Jim

  • vancet
    vancet, February 11,  2020  5:13am EST

    HI Namaedwards.  Glad you found this forum.  Keys here are:  diet + exercise + mental mindset (i.e. stay calm & relaxed as much as possible)

    Even more lifestyle changes were hard for me.  I was never that extreme when it came to my diet and though I ate healthy and was active trying to do 10K steps daily.  Bottomline, I learned to say no.  I learned to ALWAYS read labels and to keep a mental note of how much sodium (max 1600mg for me) and sugar  (max 30g for me)  I've consumed for the day.  It's unavoidable but I had to learn to eat more vegetables and fruits.  I carry fresh grape tomatoes and celery (or other veggies) with me to work to keep me from snacking unhealthy and I keep hummus in the fridge.  Try to make my own low-salt salsa to eat with no-salt chips.  Also avoid eating out and buying ready made foods if you can manage that.  I was encouraged to explore cooking heart healthy recipes to find what I like.  

    But cardiac rehab taught me that my step/activity count does not equal exercise.  Exercise is a sustained scheduled activity.  This is key lifestyle change for me, being mostly a weekend warrior.  Stick with something that you know you can keep up in terms of schedule and build it into your daily routine.  I found this so hard to integrate into my daily work schedule.  I feel and look better so that keeps me motivated especially knowing my heart is thanking me.  

    Mentally, I took a mindfulness course to learn how to relax more/destress and not to get stressed out over what I can't control.  Mindfulness also teaches you to manage your symptoms so it doesn't escalate into a stressful panic attack (for me it was shortness of breath and the occasional dizziness).  Lots of free courses available especially if you check your local community centre etc.  

    Good luck!

  • Namaedwards
    Namaedwards, February 11,  2020  8:09pm EST

    @vancet

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I too try carrying healthy snack option, I realised at the start that snacking is the hardest thing to manage. The ease of just reaching out and grabbing something to eat is no longer available, sometimes having to think of food options can be taxing.

    I shall definitely try the mindfulness exercises. I will start cardiac rehab soon too. 

  • Upstater69
    Upstater69, February 17,  2020  8:50am EST

    Hello Namaedwards,

    So much good advice from James and Vancet!  

    As noted, checking labels is of utmost importance, I always check for sodium, carbohydrate, sugar content, sometimes fat content.  After a while you'll remember the sodium and fat content of foods you eat most often.  If there are more than 6 or 7 ingredients, it goes back on the shelf. 

    At our house, we eat very little processed food, try to eat fresh, local and organic foods which can be  expensive and time conusuming--more frequent trips to store or market, a LOT of cooking.   Batch cooking has become my friend.  Once or twice a week I try to make up a batch of  homemade soup, slow cooker meal or some other kind of dish.  More of this in the winter because we eat a lot salads in the warmer months.  When buying fresh meat or fish, I purchase & cook more than what is needed for a meal, use the leftovers in  a salad later on.  Canned tuna and beans are rinsed before eating and I always opt for low sodium when buying any canned goods such as beans and tomatoes.   Even though our food bill is very high, I feel that it's like putting money in the bank up front to save on health care costs.  Of course, there are "cheats", but try to limit that sort of thing to once a week or less. 

    Snacks are important!  Helps keep the blood sugar level from dipping too low, especially late afternoon.   My "go to" snacks range form a handful (count 15) roasted almondsor cashews,  to low fat mozzarella cheese stick (watch the sodium) or veggies and hummus, celery, apples with fresh ground peanut butter.  For chocolate cravings, 2-3 small squares of 85% dark chocolate (5-6 grams sugar).   Lots of water too.  Sometimes when we feel hungry, maybe it's just that we're thirsty. 
     

    Sugar is a culprit I feel  doesn't get enough attention.  There is some research that shows excessive sugar and foods high in carbohydrates can cause inflammation, which in turn may contribute to problems with heart disease.   Eating foods high in sugar or carbohydrates can cause problems with blood sugar levels, often creating a dip in blood sugar level that makes one feel low energy, tired, aka "carb crash".  Then we go looking for something to boost our low and often end up eating  quick fix such as potato chips, candy bar, cookies, cake and the cycle starts all over again.  The snacks I listed are mostly high protein, low carb so they don't cause the carb crash, helps to keep my blood sugar levels on an even keel.  Vance noted that he has a limit on his daily sugar intake, so glad to know others are doing that too. If you love sweets it takes a while to get used to avoiding those foods. Keeping such foods out of the house helped me most with that.  I love to bake, that was a difficult habit to change, but have managed to do baking only for special occasions, take  the baked goods to a party, have a taste and leave the rest for others.  And I  always cut the amount of sugar the recipe calls, usually by half.

    It's difficult to change habits, but once you start to feel better with  the diet changes, exercise and self calming,  it becomes a lot easier.
     

     

     

     

     

  • steveSD
    steveSD, February 24,  2020  3:26pm EST

    There was a Men's Health article called "The Cure for Diabetes" (overstated title of course) that talked about reducing or eliminating sugar and starch from your diet and increasing healthy foods. Lean protien, leafy vegatables, antioxidants, and fiber. I also had a dietitian who said that if you focus on eating more healthy foods like steamed or raw vegetables and oatmeal you won't have as much room for the unhealthy choices because you will feel more full. It takes some time to get used to but it does work. I also quit drinking alcohol for a long period and keep it down to a few drinks a month now. Exercise was what really helped me in my process. I got a calendar and marked the days where I did at least 20 minutes of walking, biking, or weightlifting. That also helped reduce my stress levels. Making the changes also helped me know that I'm doing all I can to be healthy and like others said, it gets easier.  - Steve

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