For a healthy heart eat a rainbow every day!

Fiber, vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, high nutrients, low-calorie, no artificial flavors or colors, natural sugars are part of a heart healthy diet and all easily available in a diet rich in colorful vegetables. If it is hard to get your servings of vegetables per day consider smoothies, chopping into small pieces adding small amounts to every meal you make. Ask yourself are you getting 4 1/2 cups a day of vegetables? Most will say no. Try new vegetables, search the internet for recipes.

Fitness as we age

It is important to work on physical fitness life long.

Physical fitness benefits include reduction of heart disease, reduction in Alzheimer’s and most importantly independence.  A recent study showed Finnish men who lost more than 15% of their cardiorespiratory fitness over a 10-year period faced a near doubling of their risk of acute MI over the subsequent decade and more than twice the risk of dying of any cause, a new study shows. But as we age fitness programs change. It isn’t realistic to ask the very elderly to jog, participate in spinning classes, hit the elliptical or rowing machine like those who are younger. The issues with mobility and frailty prevent such activities for most. So what does one do for fitness as they age?

Walking, stationary biking, water aerobics, swimming laps with a kick board, recumbent bike or  recumbent steppers are some of my favorite means of obtaining aerobic exercise. Also programs such as Sit and Be Fit.   Any is exercise is better than no exercise. If exercise is done in a group or a class you also get the additional benefits of socialization. As we age socialization is vital. The more socially isolated a person becomes the worse the predictors for health. I found over the years many adhered to light continuous aerobic exercise because of the socialization of the classes more than the physical benefits of the exercise. New interns would come aboard and roll their eyes when they noted the workloads of many of the elderly, then I would point out the ages of many of my clients being in upper 80’s to mid 90’s and regularly attending classes 2-3 times per week, aerobically exercising, resistance training, stretching and socializing.

Resistance training is very important as we age as well as I am frequently promoting the following:

Your Strength is your Independence

This is what allows you to live in your own home, to care for yourself, to get up off the floor if you fall, to carry in the groceries.  It is your ability to cope with emergencies, to interact with the grandkids by walking up the bleachers, or across the soccer field, to lift up the two-year old, to get to their musicals across a long parking lot, to walk the hills at the nature center etc.


Here are a few simple strengthening exercise that most can perform. Wall squat

Wall Squats

With feet 8-12 inches apart and approximately 6 inches from the wall, slide down the wall a few inches. Hold this position as long as able. Push back up to standing. Repeat as many times as possible. Don’t go down to far, and if you fear not being able to stand all the way back up, keep a chair next to you for assistance. Breath out as you push back  up.

calf raises

Toe Raises

This exercise is surprisingly hard for many of the elderly to perform. Go up on tip toes and back down as many times as possible. To make harder try on a stair step or try doing on only one leg.

Wall push ups

Just like the old-fashioned push up but do against a wall. Breath out as you are pushing yourself back from the wall. Exhale on Exertion! I say this because many hold their breath which is hard on the heart and blood pressure.

Lateral leg exercises

These are really important for maintaining a good gait when we walk as we get older. Lying on side – do in bed – as easier than getting up from the floor. Lift leg out and back down. Do as many as possible.

Be a mentor, assist to make it happen

As most blog readers tend to be younger, pass this advice on to your elders, work out with them, purchase and arrange for transportation to fitness classes, make a big deal out of wanting them to stay fit and healthy to participate in life with you. We all need encouragement at times. Don’t assume being old means sitting in the recliner all day. Keep those in your live vital through physical activity. And have a great day!

Family history of heart issues, not just heart attacks

Risk factors for heart disease are well known when it comes to classic heart disease that causes heart attacks, however many families neglect to recognize that there are other heart conditions that can be genetic or familial meaning showing up in families.

These conditions can include:

  •  Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
  • Marfan Syndrome
  • Congenital Heart Disease
  • Familial Hypercholesterolemia
  • Blood Clotting Disorder
  • Sudden Cardiac Arrest/ Long QT syndrome
  • Aortic Dissection
  • Aortic Aneurysm
  • Valve disease

Early detection and management can be critical in each of these issues.

Modern medicine can help through use of medications, imaging of the heart structures, use of devices such as filters or implantable defibrillators to help prevent major problems from occurring. Families should make sure they communicate about issues as they can skip generations or show up in other siblings children. My own family has issues with Marfan Syndrome and Valve issues. Without knowing that someone could look at my family members and think they would be excellent in basketball or volleyball, however with this syndrome competitive vigorous exercise can be lethal. Problems such as Long QT syndrome can be addressed with medications and defibrillators and some are able to compete competitively.

By detecting early families can manage the issues that come with heart problems.

The problems include mentally accepting the issues, financial implications, health insurance, setting realistic goals, disability etc. I had a patient with Marfan Syndrome who turned down disability in his early 30’s before he really understood the serious implications of the disease. By the time he was in his 50’s he called himself the multimillion dollar man, as each surgery he needed could not be done locally and had to go to Cleveland Clinic or Mayo, and was very complicated given his condition. It wasn’t unusual for him to have a bill of over a million from each surgery. He was denied disability over and over again, because he turned it down early in life. Today we have lots of advocacy organizations for each heart condition to help address these issues. If families connect with these early education is a powerful tool and can arm themselves with current case law and resources to prevent such problems from occurring.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association. Click for home page.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association

National Marfan Foundation - Home