IGTV Expert Chat: Maintaining a Healthy Heart with Dr. Duane Follman
Duane Follman is a Board Certified Cardiologist with AMITA Health Medical Group Heart and Vascular in the Chicago area. Below, he gives his insight and knowledge on the importance of cardiovascular health and tips on maintaining a healthy heart.
Duane Follman is a Board Certified Cardiologist with AMITA Health Medical Group Heart and Vascular in the Chicago area. Below, he gives his insight and knowledge on the importance of cardiovascular health and tips on maintaining a healthy heart. You can watch our chat here.
What is one of the most important things for maintaining a healthy heart?
I tell my patients the first prescription I write is for a pair of gym shoes. That is mandated. The European guidelines, the Canadian guidelines, the American guidelines, they all agree that people should have a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise weekly. People who do that have markedly fewer hospitalizations, improved longevity, and improved quality of life. The data is very overwhelming.
Are there any specific foods that are important for maintaining a healthy heart? Any foods that should be avoided?
At the beginning of January, the Nutritional Council came out with the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy diet, which is made up of fruits, vegetables and lean meats. These are the core of the Mediterranean diet. It also includes poultry, beans, eggs, modern dairy products, vegetables, and limits your intake of red meat. The important things to avoid are processed sugars or any food with added sugar. two foods to avoid are processed sugars or any food with added sugar. That causes obesity, insulin resistance, and vascular inflammation. When you have a high sugar level, that'll raise your natural insulin level. When your natural insulin levels are elevated, that causes inflammation of the blood vessels of the body. The other thing that we should avoid is trans fats, which are natural fats the food industry adds artificial hydrogen to make them taste better. Our body does not have the physiology to break down trans fats, and they become inflammatory. When you see the word partially hydrogenated, that means we've artificially changed the natural fat to an artificial fat, and your body has trouble dealing with it.
How does nutrition play a role in the importance of heart health?
The key is following the Mediterranean diet, not gaining a lot of weight, avoiding transfats and sugars, and getting exercise. The other [point] I should make is absolutely, unequivocally, astronomically do not smoke. Smoking causes incomprehensible vascular inflammation. It accelerates not only blockages in the heart but blockages to the brain which cause vascular obstruction, which can lead to vascular dementia.
What should people know about both high blood pressure and cholesterol? What can people do to prevent them?
High blood pressure has both a genetic and a physiological association. There are some people that are very sensitive to salt and other people that are not. If you’re sensitive to salt, instead of the Mediterranean diet, we'd send you to the DASH diet, which is a low salt diet. Weight is very much related to hypertension. Weight is important and abuse of salt is important. Exercise helps blood pressure. Again the first prescription should be a pair of gym shoes.
Now with cholesterol, there is a big genetic component. It is hard to change your good and bad cholesterol. But exercise, diet, and weight-loss can help your triglycerides [fats circulating in your blood system] which are indirectly related to cholesterol. What raises triglycerides is obesity, alcohol, and eating trans fats and a lot of sugar.
Another common question people ask is how about alcohol. And in general, none is good. People say that wine is good for the heart. It's a little bit good in very low doses for the arteries, but it has no effect on the heart muscle [nor the heart rhythm] and may potentially be harmful. The benefits are so minimal, and the potential risks are very high. I tell people that if you encourage one in ten people who are non-drinkers, if you tell them to have a glass of wine, they are at very high risk for alcoholism. I never tell someone to start drinking to protect the heart because I put them at risk of alcoholism.
For the full interview, watch it on our Instagram IGTV Series linked here.