Heart health


Always consult your doctor for any matters relating to your health. This information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional.

The Undeniable Truths of Heart Health: Diet and Exercise Remain Keys

Part 1: How to Sneak More Exercise into Your Day

Sonya Angelone, a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who holds a master’s of science degree, is on the other end of the phone, explaining ways to sneak exercise into already-crowded days.

Although most of us wish it weren’t true and wish there were a magic pill to keep our hearts healthy, diet and exercise remain the undeniable keys to a healthy heart. We know that but … we’re too busy for one more thing, can’t afford a gym membership, are too tired after work, want to spend what little time we have with our children.

“Incorporate subtle exercises into things you already do,” Angelone suggests, rejecting the notion that we have to have chunks of time or money to improve our heart health.

“For example,” she says, “do a wall chair when on the phone or while brushing your teeth.”

What I don’t know at the time is that she is practicing what she teaches as we talk. “I’m doing a wall chair as we speak, she tells me a bit later. “I just put my back against the wall, my feet on the floor, and slid down the wall until you could set a book on my knees or a child could sit on my lap. This is engaging my quadriceps, lowering my blood sugar from just eating lunch, burning extra calories and strengthening my legs so I am less likely to fall.”

Angelone, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a practicing nutritionist in the San Francisco Bay area, has more examples — all simple and cost-free or very low cost.

“Lunge down the hall,” she suggests. “It only takes a few lunges a day to make a difference. Or alternately stand on your tiptoes and flat on your feet. This strengthens your lower legs.”

Another idea is to hold both arms out to your side with a book in one arm. Your body will look like a “T.” Hold that position until your arms shake. Stop and repeat.

How many can you do? It doesn’t matter, according to Angelone. The idea is to go from where you are to an ability to do more.

Another few examples:

  • While sitting in a chair or watching television, contract your abdominal muscles 20 times.
  • While sitting in a chair, lift your toes, put them back on the floor, and repeat. This strengthens your shins.
  • While sitting at the table, pedal a foot cycle.

“The key is to avoid just being sedentary,” the nutritionist says. “If you have a sedentary job, get up every half hour. Do something. Go outside and walk around the building, go up and down a flight of steps. Engage your muscles.”

Important Note: The only caveat is to make sure you have no limitations or injuries. If you do, check with your physician before trying any of these ideas.

The Undeniable Truths of Heart Health: Diet & Exercise Remain Keys

Part 2: How to Sneak More Nutrition Into Your Diet

Eggs are packed with protein; they are good for you. Egg yolks have cholesterol; eggs are not good for you.

Butter is better than margarine, or is it that margarine is better than butter?

What is the difference between monosaturated, saturated, partially hydrogenated and trans fats?

Confusion abounds about nutrition. Sometimes it is hard to keep up with the latest science, sometimes the science changes, and sometimes we just can’t remember what the science says.

Sonya Angelone, a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), spends her days counseling people in the San Francisco area about nutrition. Before she reveals the answers to some of the biggest nutritional conundrums, Angelone says there is one important point to remember about nutrition: There is no one-size-fits all. Each of us is different and can process food differently. Age and activity level make a difference. Medical conditions can also alter nutritional recommendations.

Now, drumroll please, here are Angelone’s answers to two of the most common and perplexing questions about nutrition:


Although the newest dietary guidelines remove the limit of eggs and dietary cholesterol, they still recommend avoiding excess. Eggs are a nutritious food, but whether they are good or bad depends on the person. Genes help determine how someone metabolizes nutrients, including cholesterol. Some people absorb excess dietary cholesterol and should limit eggs (one of the richest sources of it in our diets). But most people can consume eggs regularly. Just make sure they aren’t cooked in excess oil and don’t come with bacon, hash browns, white toast and butter!

Also, the recommendations are different for a healthy person wanting to eat a healthy diet versus someone with heart disease who is trying to reverse their disease. For the latter, I limit dietary cholesterol, including eggs. The American Heart Association is a good site for great information.

On Balance: Neutral.

Suggestion: Ask your physician to run a cholesterol balance test. This will tell you whether your high cholesterol is because your liver makes too much cholesterol or because you absorb too much cholesterol.

 Butter or margarine 

I do not like margarine ever. It has trans fats. That simply means that something has been artificially added to make the margarine harden into a stick or tub. The producer transformed liquid oil into a solid fat by adding hydrogen atoms — thus the term hydrogenated. This process changes the fat into an unhealthy fat.

On Balance: Butter is always the best choice.

Suggestion: Try nut butter instead.

Courtesy of Kentucky Living.