Heart Health

I work on the neuro and spinal cord injury floors of a hospital and, so, a lot of education I provide is for heart health. I have also been {trying} to educate my dad about a heart healthy diet with minimal success. Heart healthy diets can prevent strokes, heart disease, and heart attacks which is obviously important of a neuro floor. It’s also important for spinal cord injured people since their risk of heart disease is higher than the general population due to less mobility. A heart healthy diet is especially important for people in which heart disease runs in the family.

My family tends to have slightly high cholesterol, but we all have high HDL values too. In fact even at the ripe age of 25 my cholesterol was 200...that’s the last number before your value becomes abnormal. BUT my LDL is normal and my HDL is very high (70s or 80s if I remember correctly). HDL is the good cholesterol. I’ve started to think more about how I should “walk the walk” of a heart healthy diet since 1) I educate my patients on it almost every day and 2) it would be in my best interest based on my genetics. Where is this motivation coming from? Eating pizza like 8 times in the month of August (it’s only August 18th as I write this...oops). A wedding and my birthday clearly outdid themselves.


Now I’m the type of dietitian who will always discuss with my patients how to include their favorite foods while also following a healthier lifestyle. If you read my last post, I always start by recommending MORE fruits and vegetables. And so while I do believe pizza can fit into a heart healthy diet I am also aware that I need to cut back on the frequency.

The transition to a heart healthy diet will look different for everyone based in their baseline diet (I.e. what they eat now). The general recommendations include less saturated fat (high fat dairy and animal products), less sodium (flavor with something other than salt and cut back on processed foods), and more fiber (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and vegetarian protein). I already eat a lot of vegetarian protein and include plenty of fiber in my diet. Where I need to make some changes is which foods I eat when I go out to eat (as in less pizza and burgers and what have you) and how often I go out to eat (since the food tends to be larger portions and higher in saturated fat and salt). Your diet is what affects LDL whereas exercise affects HDL.


The latter shouldn’t be too hard once I move to Charlestown since there are fewer restaurants and since I’ll have a larger kitchen and plan to have people over. The former on the other hand needs to come from within, I need to find that motivation to choose to eat in and to choose healthier options MOST of the time. Pizza doesn’t need to disappear from my life but maybe a little less often.

And so, if you find heart health to be important to you because of genetics or your lifestyle, reach out to a dietitian and see where you can start! Getting started and asking for help is the hardest part!