I am convinced that Valentine’s Day was created to get U.S. East Coasters through the darkest and seemingly longest (totally ironic because it’s actually the shortest) month of winter. Perhaps, though, it was created to be a Hallmark accompaniment to February being deemed “American Heart Month.” Being the practical and efficient gal that I am, I decided we would all benefit from reliable heart-health tips. What better resource than The Biggest Loser’s Dr. Robert Huizenga? Dr. H and I had a powwow about the truths and myths of cardiac health. More important, these tips are as easy to implement as brushing your teeth daily.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE HEART-HEALTHY FOODS AND WHY?
[Dr. Robert Huizenga] Any fresh vegetable, fruit, or lean protein—fish, white meat from chicken or turkey, or nonfat milk products. I’m not picky!
WHAT ARE THE WORST FOODS FOR YOUR HEART AND WHY?
Anything with trans fat—a dangerous fat formerly found in essentially all store-bought cookies, bakery goods, crackers, and even frozen breakfast products. Now, under pressure from the FDA, many of these products have gone “trans fat free.” Keep in mind, though, a product claiming to be trans-fat-free may actually contain up to a half gram! So, you need to scan ingredients for “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “vegetable shortening.”
WHAT ARE THE BEST FORMS OF CARDIO EXERCISE FOR A VERY BUSY PERSON WHO THINKS HE/SHE DOESN’T HAVE TIME?
First off, someone who is twice as busy as you is running right now. So everyone has plenty of time to exercise—if, that is, their priorities are properly aligned! Any movement is good, the more the better, and additionally, reducing the consecutive time of sitting is also surprisingly healthful. Top fitness and optimal health is typically achieved with 90 minutes of moderate to vigorous movement five or six times per week.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT CARDIAC HEALTH?
People feel their weight is important. It’s not! The main goal of improved cardiac health is to eliminate excess fat, a condition found in 80 percent of Americans. Unfortunately, in America, even having an “ideal” weight is nothing to brag about, as roughly half in this category have too much fat and too little muscle/bone/connective tissue. People feel walking 30 minutes three times a week will keep them thin and in shape. It won’t. People think fruit juice and morning “health shakes” are healthy. They aren’t. Except in certain situations during and after exercise, fiber-poor liquid calories are not a good idea.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON HABITS (BEYOND THE OBVIOUS, LIKE SMOKING) THAT LAND PATIENTS IN YOUR OFFICE WITH HEART PROBLEMS?
Eighty percent of heart disease is preventable. Sure, it’s easier said than done, but all it takes is optimal fitness, ideal body fat, a healthful diet, and no cigarettes or excess alcohol.
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ABOUT FAD DIETS, SUCH AS CLEANSES, WHEN IT COMES TO MAINTAINING A HEALTHY HEART?
Cleanses to boost “health” are a money-making scam or worse: Cleanses, if administered nonsterilely, can cause infection, and for reasons not well understood can become “addictive.”