Want a healthy heart?

young man with daughter feeding him healthy food, want a healthy heart, diet and exercise, salt substitutes, healthier fats, whole grains, elizabeth rosenstein, dietitian, exercise, good sleep habits

We all have heard the things we should be doing to have a healthy heart. Diet and exercise. Diet and exercise. Diet and exercise.

We’d like to compile some tips that may be more specifically helpful, and debunk some myths about what is good and not good for your heart and overall wellbeing! We hope you find this helpful.

Our own registered dietician, Elizabeth Rosenstein, doesn’t want people to get overwhelmed. “A lot of times, there’s this perception that eating a healthy diet requires a drastic, and complete overhaul of everything to do with eating all at once – what you eat, when you eat, how you eat, etc- only to fall off the bandwagon a few weeks later because it’s hard to stick to it. For long-term success though, it’s really more about making one or two small changes at a time. Eat one more vegetable each week. Drink one less glass of juice each week. With the successes of the smaller goals you can feel empowered to continue to work to meet new small goals.”


  • We know fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables are best. Canned foods? Check the salt content. Watch added sauces or juices for extra calories and sugars. Jazz up veggies with basil, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, paprika or sage.
  • Choose fiber-rich whole grains for most grain servings. Examples are brown or wild rice, quinoa, oats, and whole wheat.
  •  Choose poultry and fish without skin. Olive oil is the best oil to use for preparing and, of course, grilling adds no additional calories. MYTH: Coconut oil is healthy for your heart. FACT: Coconut oil is not heart-healthy. It is extremely high in saturated fat – about 50% more than butter!
  •  MYTH: Stay away from eggs. FACT: Eggs contain healthy nutrients including vitamins A and D, as well as protein. An egg a day has not been linked to higher rates of heart diseases (just pass on the bacon…) Per Elizabeth, “If you want your egg or two every morning, go right ahead. It’s a matter of portion size, not excluding specific foods.”
  • We know salt is not good for us. Substituting pepper or other herbs or spices for salt can, over time, eliminate the need for salting everything – especially vegetables.
  • Choose dairy with reduced fats (skim milk low-fat cottage cheese, etc)
  • Drink water every day! Lots of it!
  • Fats – healthier fats are in nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives
    • Unhealthy fats #1 TRANS fat = packaged snack foods, fried foods, commercially baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, pizza dough – anything containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, even if it claims to be “trans-fat-free”.
    • Less healthy fats #2 SATURATED fat = red meat, ice cream, butter and lard, chicken skin, whole-fat dairy products, tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil.


  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. That means no more than one drink per day if you’re a woman and no more than two drinks per day if you’re a man.
  • Practice good dental hygiene, especially flossing your teeth daily.
  • WHAT??
    • Yes, dental health is a good indication of overall health, including your heart health. Studies have shown that bacteria in the mouth involved in the development of gum disease can move into the bloodstream.
  • Get enough sleep 7 – 8 hours per night. Repeatedly sleeping too little can increase your risk of stroke or heart attack. It can also cause disruptions in underlying health conditions including blood pressure and inflammation. Get treated for sleep apnea.
  • PLEASE stop smoking AND avoid secondhand smoke at all costs. Secondhand smoke increases heart disease risk – at a greater rate for those who have high blood pressure or cholesterol.
  • MOVE!
    • Don’t sit for too long at one time. Do you have a sedentary job? Get up and move every 20 minutes.
      • Park farther away from the office
      • Take a few short walks throughout the day
      • Use a standing workstation so you can move up and down
  • Three kinds of exercises for heart health (talk to your provider before starting a program)
    • Aerobic (Ideally 30 minutes a day / 5 days per week)
      • Improves your circulation which results in lowered blood pressure and
      • heart rate.
    • Resistance training (strength work – at least two nonconsecutive days per week)
      • Free weights, weight machines, resistance bands or body resistance exercises such as push-ups, squats and chin-ups
    • Stretching, flexibility, and balance (every day and before and after exercising)
      • Flexibility workouts don’t directly contribute to heart health, but they help musculoskeletal health which enables you to stay flexible and free from joint pain, cramping and other muscular issues therefore making aerobic and resistance training more successful.

Elizabeth Rosenstein, MS, RDN, LD is a registered dietician at Hennepin Healthcare and works with patients in Cardiac Rehabilitation and in our Bariatric Surgery Clinic (soon to be called the Comprehensive Weight Management Center).

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