“What is a heart healthy diet” my doctor asked me on April 12, 2017. That shocked me, she’s a medical doctor, she should know I thought. You see, when I first went to her a year ago for my yearly check up, my only complaint was my weight. And now one year later, I am down over 20 pounds. When she asked what have I been doing, I replied, “I’m eating a heart healthy diet!”
I guess it means different things to different people. I decided to do some more research and decided we might want to share exactly what we are doing, although we mentioned it previously here.
First, I have to emphasize, it was not easy – but Bill was HIGHLY motivated. We didn’t do this for our weight, although that was a bit of a concern, we wanted to restore Bill’s heart to good health! Who knew we would both lose so much weight and feel great after we started eating this Heart Healthy diet? Bill says it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle! We had to radically change how we view food and how we eat. When you are told you are at risk of a massive heart attack or heart disease, that was all Bill needed to change!
I need to add a caveat. As Christians and believers in the power of the Holy Spirit, we know faith in a power higher than ourselves (and for us, that is Jesus) will bring change. That is a supernatural power and it’s about changing our sin nature. You can read more about this change, here. But when it comes to changing a daily habit, like eating or following doctor’s orders, we are talking about a different matter here. It’s a physical decision. As with anything, it is a daily choice we make. This is not to say we didn’t pray over this! We were in prayer A LOT during this whole process. But it was up to us to decide what we would put into our mouths!
We went through a learning curve. Bill is our chief cook and I am the bottle washer. So really, he went through it! He had to research what he needed to change. Initially, it was a struggle, but slowly we developed an eating style that would be heart healthy and still suit Bill’s Irish roots (eating a potato with the main meal of the day).
We both had blood work in this month (April 2017), so we now see how our diet is impacting our physical bodies, besides losing the extra weight we were carrying. It looks pretty good, but initially, we had a hard time getting enough protein into Bill – until he began to add more fish and nuts to our diets.
Short of going to a professional nutritionist, which we still may do in the future, we want to make sure we are eating a well-balanced meal. Since my doctor asked what we thought was hearth healthy, I decided to again look at what a heart healthy diet consists of and discovered DASH from the Mayo Clinic:
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet is a lifelong approach to healthy eating that’s designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension). The DASH diet encourages you to reduce the sodium in your diet and eat a variety of foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.
By following the DASH diet, you may be able to reduce your blood pressure by a few points in just two weeks. Over time, your systolic blood pressure could drop by eight to 14 points, which can make a significant difference in your health risks.
Because the DASH diet is a healthy way of eating, it offers health benefits besides just lowering blood pressure. The DASH diet is also in line with dietary recommendations to prevent osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
No one knows all the agony Bill went through trying to figure this out! He was actually first told to go on a heart healthy diet in 2003, when he was had his first blood work done to check his cholesterol and discovered it was high (but not that high as we still have that report). But this doctor decided he really needed to also take a statin. How many have heard the same story? Take a statin, exercise AND eat a heart healthy diet. They don’t say, if you don’t, you will one day have a wake up call and you may or may not wake up….
Let’s see more about this extraordinary food plan – doesn’t that sound better than diet? For his heart condition, he read he needed to keep his sodium to no more than 1,500 mg a day. And based upon our past history, we were going to eliminate sweets. That was probably our biggest problem.
The DASH diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy foods — and moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts.
In addition to the standard DASH diet, there is also a lower sodium version of the diet. You can choose the version of the diet that meets your health needs:
- Standard DASH diet. You can consume up to 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day.
- Lower sodium DASH diet. You can consume up to 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
Both versions of the DASH diet aim to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet compared with what you might get in a typical American diet, which can amount to a whopping 3,400 mg of sodium a day or more.
The standard DASH diet meets the recommendation from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to keep daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg a day.
The American Heart Association recommends 1,500 mg a day of sodium as an upper limit for all adults. If you aren’t sure what sodium level is right for you, talk to your doctor.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. I Corinthians 1:3-4