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Dr Russ Blog - Heart Disease - Prevent it Now
Heart Disease - Prevent it Now
Created on 2/15/2013

D sent in an excellent question - she is concerned because her husband is about 10 pounds overweight and has been told by his doctor that he is on the verge of developing heart disease. She wonders what she can do - her husband is a picky eater.

Being told you are "on the verge of developing heart disease" is both potentially frightening and vague. The words the doctor used likely imply that certain risk factors for heart disease have worsened - these might include:

- increased body weight
- increased waist circumference
- increased blood pressure
- smoking
- lack of regular exercise
- poor dietary habits (eating primarily highly processed foods)
- inadequate sleep
- ineffective stess management practices

Hopefully the doctor's words are a wake up call - a call to action, to take control of what he can by instituting some important changes in his life.

The good news is there are many ways to do this - he should start small (begin with 1-2 changes he can easily bring into his daily life, then add another healthy change every 3 weeks). Some ideas include:

- increase his daily intake of vegetables and fruit by "hiding" them in various dishes (D's husband doesn't enjoy veggies or fruit) - get pizza with a little less cheese and add veggies for added taste and health benefits; make smoothies with dark berries for a sweet taste and add small amounts of veggies; mix veggies into his favorite pasta dishes - overall, get creative.

- exercise daily - no excuses. Your husband can benefit his heart by at least committing to 15 minutes of brisk walking every day (enough to get a good sweat going) - he should check with his doctor first before beginning a new exercise program, however. Exercise is the single best stress-buster known, will contribute to weight loss in a healthy fashion, and tones the cardiovascular system.

- make sure he goes to bed at an hour that gives him the best chance to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night; if your husband snores and is overweight you might ask his doctor if a sleep evaluation is warranted - sleep apnea and other sleep disorders can raise blood pressure and cause other health issues.

- make sure he takes some time to relax - unmanaged stress creates inflammatory changes in the body, and inflammation contributes to heart disease.

- ask his doctor for advice - keep everyone on the same page. Your husband may benefit from medication to, for example, lower his blood pressure.

You might also look into satisfying, healthy meals that are heart healthy - many are available on the Haris Teeter web site ( A nice cookbook that can help is "True Food", by my teacher and friend Andrew Weil, MD.

Your husband being "on the verge" of heart disease doesn't have to mean he will get it. He can take charge of his diet and lifestyle, which is a lot, and that may be enough to stop any disease progression in its tracks.

And it's clear he has great support in his corner, D. Take good care of your self, too.

Be well.
Dr. Russ
** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **

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