feet on treadmill, walking and other tips to improve irregular heart beat


Tools to take charge of your heart health

Patient-thumbThere are many ways to take control and keep your heart healthy. Be active. Eat right. Lower stress. It's all good advice, but what does it mean? Here's how I worked together with one of my patients to improve his heart health.

I first met Bob Perzel after he was diagnosed with heart arrhythmia (irregular heart beat). His cardiologist treated his heart problem with medications and the typical procedures, but also recommended Bob consider adopting a healthier lifestyle. 

As you probably know, that is no easy task. I led a team of specialists dedicated to helping him get started, including a preventive cardiologist, nurse practitioners, a registered dietician, and exercise physiologists (similar to an exercise trainer). 

I reviewed Bob's health and also assessed the risk factors and behaviors in Bob's life that may affect his heart health and risk of heart disease. We discussed starting a cholesterol-lowering medication based on his risk factors. We also talked about the key lifestyle changes needed to improve his heart health.   

Our dietician educated Bob about the benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet and helped Bob create a food journal to track his eating patterns. This helped him find opportunities to improve his overall nutrition like lowering salt and saturated fat intake. We encouraged him to eat heart-healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and multigrain or whole grain starches. 

Exercise is also an important factor in keeping your heart healthy. In Bob's case our exercise physiologist introduced Bob to healthy forms of physical activity. She recommended 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week.  Since he was bothered by knee pain, they discussed biking as a good, low impact exercise for him.  I always tell my patients that exercise doesn't need to be a five mile run—it can be as easy as going for a walk, dancing to the radio, or climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator.  Anything active is good!

"I liked that the clinic focused on me as a whole person—not just my heart issues. That was critical to me," said Bob, "I needed to own this and follow through and the clinic gave me the tools to make some changes and feel better overall." Through food journaling and light exercise, Bob lost 20 pounds in three months, and his cardiologist is considering reducing his arrhythmia medication.  Bob's long-term goal is to lose another 30 pounds and stop his medication altogether.

Since lifestyle changes takes perseverance and hard work, we encourage our patients to schedule follow-up visits. Bob continues to meet with his dietitian, nurse practitioner and me. Our team has enjoyed working with Bob and helping him celebrate his accomplishments.

Selecting heart healthy foods and staying active are two things you can start doing today that can really make an impact on your health and well being. Get started!


Share this article


Butter vs. margarine: What's better?

Fat is an important staple in our diets; it's up to you to choose foods containing good fat versus bad fat. As a bariatric dietitian, these are the recommendations I make for fitting fat into your diet.

Continue reading


Get fun, inspiring, provider-reviewed articles sent to your inbox.

Sign up for our email newsletter