February is American Heart Month
by Dr. Laura Verde
I am a cardiologist, and my patients often ask me what they can do to lose weight and stay healthy.
Even as a physician, I used to have a hard time answering that question myself. Mono-saturated fat, poly-saturated fat, carbohydrates, protein, which one is which? It seemed to me that unless you have a degree in nutrition, it would be hard to know what to eat, how to prepare the food, etc.
That all changed when I was doing my General Internal Medicine Residency training. My favorite mentor was Dr. Sangnya Patel. I always looked up to her. She was beautiful, intelligent, a doctor, a mother, and above all, a very kind and compassionate person. I used to think to myself: “When I grow up, I want to be just like her.” She taught me that if you want patients to follow your advice, you need to keep things simple.
She had five very simple rules for weight loss, so patients left the office knowing exactly what to do, which doesn’t happen very often, unfortunately. I adopted those rules and added a few more, in order to make it not only about diet, but also about how to stay healthy.
1. Don’t use tobacco. Plain and simple. Tobacco of any kind is involved in multiple diseases that will ultimately cause you to live a shorter life than people that don’t use tobacco.
2. Stay active. We used to recommend 30 minutes of exercise a day, at least 4-6 days a week. That still is very important. But we now know that even short periods of physical activity count as well. For instance: stop taking the elevator and start taking the stairs. When you go to the grocery store or any place for that matter, park on the far end of the parking lot.
You will reduce the chance of getting your door dinged and you will be healthier! When walking, walk at a faster pace, unless you’re enjoying the scenery, of course.
3. Don’t drink any calories. Drink water! By taking away calories from your beverages, you will reduce your daily caloric intake tremendously. Sodas, juices, and alcohol all have a significant amount of calories in them.
Diet drinks should also be avoided, because we know that those people who drink diet drinks end up consuming more calories. Also, artificial sweeteners commonly used in beverages, especially sodas, are not good for you.
4. Don’t eat carbohydrates after 6 p.m., including pasta, rice, bread, and potatoes. If you want to eat them, do it with breakfast or lunch and as a small portion. Make a fist and use the top of your hand as a measurement. Just don’t make a “mountain” out of it, because then it doesn’t work.
5. Stay away from anything that tastes sweet: cakes, pies, ice cream, chocolate. One cup of ice cream has over 500 calories!
6. Stay away from fried foods. With that, I throw in “Stay away from fast food!” Instead of frying things, grill, boil, or broil your food. Even if you use olive oil, it’s better, but still has a significant amount of calories in it.
7. When making your food plate, again make a fist. That should be your portion of meat (protein). Avoid red meat, choosing chicken or preferably fish. At lunch eat your carbohydrate as outlined in item 4. The rest of your plate should be filled with vegetables or salad. Not fried vegetables. For salad dressing use olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Salad dressings have a lot of calories.
8. Have 1 cheat day a week. No one can stay on a diet 24/7. Chose one day a week that you are going to have that dessert you love, or fry your chicken or drink your favorite soda. That gives you a boost to start all over again the next day.
I try to do for my patients what I would like done for me. I like to keep things simple. So, celebrate American Heart Month by staying healthy, having energy to play with your kids, as well as looking and feeling good!
Dr. Laura Verde practices adult invasive Cardiology with Asheville Cardiology’s Sylva office. She is board certified in Cardiovascular Diseases and Adult Echocardiography. Dr. Verde is a member of the American College of Cardiology, the American Society of Echocardiography, the American College of Physicians, and the Western Carolina Medical Society.