Hi Friends! Today, we’re wrapping up our content dedicated to heart health month with part two of my Q & A with Dr. Jonathan Whiteson. If you missed part one, you can catch up here.  A recent study released by the American Heart Association says that 103 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure and a total of 1 million people will have a heart attack or die this year from heart disease alone. That’s a 38 percent rise in the number of high blood pressure deaths over the past ten years. It’s an epidemic that needs attention both in prevention and rehabilitation. Dr. Whiteson has dedicated his practice to just that. He’s here today with more on just that….

Q: What changes can women make to their diet to reduce the risk of heart disease?

A: It might seem simple, but it’s never that easy! Plenty of fruits and vegetables every day! Fiber, fiber, fiber – preferably from the fruits and vegetables. I support eating the whole fruit in its natural form. I think that eating whole fruits supports healthy biochemical and physiologic body processes from digestion through absorption, fuel utilization and elimination in a way that juiced or pureed foods do not. Cut down on saturated fats – fats that come from animal products. Healthier fats come from vegetables and fish and we know them as mono- and poly-unsaturated. Avoid processed and pre-packaged foods. Limit sodium intake – certainly don’t add salt during cooking or at the table. Find other condiments to flavor your food. Stay away from alcohol – too many women I see in my office do not recognize how much they drink. They have a poor understanding of how many extra calories drinking alcohol adds—along with the other negative effects of alcohol on the body. And finally, attend to portion sizes – yes you can eat too much of a good thing! If you get your diet right but eat too much then you could still gain weight. Bottom line – eat heart healthy, exercise as we have discussed and your heart disease risk factors will melt away!

Q: Is heart disease genetic?

A: Yes, and no. Yes – we can inherit genes that govern cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar control. A bad set of genes can predispose you to heart disease risk factors and heart disease. But we are learning more about how those genes are controlled, and lifestyle can exhibit a powerful positive or negative impact on those genes. A heart healthy lifestyle can control those ‘risk factor’ genes and reduce the activity of those genes, so reducing the likelihood of developing heart disease. Sadly, the opposite is also true.


Q: I’ve heard time and again that the signs of a heart attack in a woman differ then those in a man. What do we need to know?

A: Shortness of breath, excessive fatigue, nausea, sweating and jaw or shoulder ache are features that might be more prominent in women than in men. The typical chest tightness / chest pain may not be present.


Q: Is it possible to have had a heart attack and not know it?

A: Yes – some people have ‘silent’ heart attacks. Either they overlooked the features – thought they were having indigestion or a muscular pain, or it was truly silent – we see this in people who have diabetes where the pain fibers to the heart are damaged and so don’t signal a heart attack.


Q: Can you recover from a heart attack and live a normal life again? If so, how?

A: Yes, but this recovery and return to normal life cannot / is not a passive process. Preventing and recovering from a heart attack is an active, considered process as we have discussed. Anyone who has had a heart attack should enroll in cardiac rehabilitation – a 3-month program or monitored exercise, nutrition guidance and lifestyle management to put you on the path to that long, heart-healthy and productive life. Adhering to medication regimens and maintaining a regular schedule of physician follow up is essential as well.


I’m so thankful I got to share Jonathan with you today–a wealth of knowledge on heart health and rehabilitation. If you have a specific question as it pertains to heart disease that Jonathan did not get to cover today, please feel free to email me at janine@janinewhiteson.com and I will try my best to get back to you ASAP. Not just this February but every day, let us all focus on taking care of our hearts by living a healthy/well balanced life. Let us focus on getting moving, managing our stress and eating with an emphasis on whole foods. And, let us encourage those whom we love to do the same. Xx Janine