Lisa Fligor: Don’t skip a beat? February is Heart Health month |

Lisa Fligor: Don’t skip a beat? February is Heart Health month

This February, instead of focusing on cupid, valentines and chocolates, let’s focus on what really matters, our heart. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death for both men and women, across all racial and ethnic groups, with one out of every four deaths due to heart disease.

Heart disease is not inevitable, it’s preventable and even reversible. Don’t know where to start? Try these action steps to support habit change.

Tips for a Healthy Heart

Know your numbers! Ideal numbers for Blood Pressure are <130/80, LDL Cholesterol <100, and Fasting Blood Sugar <100. ACTION STEP: Plan to get Lipid Panel and Fasting Blood Glucose tests.

Studies show that cardiac patients who complete a rehabilitation program are less likely to have reoccurring heart episodes.

Increase dietary fiber. Fiber is the indigestible part fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts. Fiber binds with cholesterol and filters it out of our bodies. Women need 25+ grams/ day and Men 38+ grams/day. ACTION STEP: Swap refined carbohydrates like crackers, white bread, chips and sweets for foods with more fiber like whole grains, fruit and vegetables.

Physical activity keeps our heart pumping. Try for 200 minutes per week of a combination of cardio exercise, like walking or biking, and resistance training like yoga or weight lifting – that’s less than 30 minutes per day. ACTION STEP: Add a 10-15-minute walk on your lunch break.

Manage Stress. High stress can lead to high blood pressure, over eating, excess alcohol, smoking and sugar consumption – all detrimental for heart health. Start with breathing. One minute of deep breathing drastically reduces cortisol, our main stress hormone. ACTION STEP: Practice deep breathing for three minutes a day.

Choose fat sources wisely. Some fats contribute to plaque buildup in our arteries and can block blood flow. Limit sources from animals like high fat meats and dairy and focus on plant sources like olive oil, nuts and seeds and avocados. ACTION STEP: Use olive oil instead of butter in your everyday cooking.

Preserve healthy sleep habits. Sleep deprivation increases stress hormones, sugar cravings, and inflammation and deprives the body from a much needed “rest and repair” phase of the day. Healthy adults need 7-9 hours per day. ACTION STEP: Turn off screens 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Blue light admitting from electronic devises can delay your ability to fall sleep.

Maintain a healthy weight. Aim to keep your body mass index (BMI) under 30. If your BMI is over 30, good news is that even a 5% weight reduction can drastically decrease your risk for heart disease. ACTION STEP: Make your home a healthy food oasis. Throw out junk and processed foods and stock up with fruits and veggies — make the healthy choice the easy choice in your own kitchen.

Focus on colorful fruits and veggies. Fruits and veggies are packed with vitamins and minerals and also contain active phytochemicals that help us function optimally. ACTION STEP: Aim for 5+ servings of fruits and vegetable everyday (1 serving is about 1 cup). Include one serving at every meal and snack.

Monitor sodium intake. High amounts of sodium in your diet contributes to increasing blood pressure which adds stress to your heart. The American Heart Association recommends 2,300mg per day for healthy adults and 1,500mg to lower hypertension. The average American consume 4,500-5,000mg per day, most from packaged foods and restaurant meals. ACTION STEP: Look at sodium content on nutrition fact labels and choose products where the mgs of sodium are less than the total calories.

Eat at home. Eating out is fun, tasty and convenient but not good for our hearts. Most restaurant meals are loaded with calories, sodium and saturated fats, and low on vegetable. ACTION STEP: Avoid last minute take out nights. Try meal planning on Sundays for the entire week. If you know what’s for dinner you are less likely to pick up something unhealthy on your way home.

Have you experienced a heart event like a heart attack, bypass surgery, chest pain, valve repair, stent placement or do you have congestive heart failure? Tahoe Forest provides a comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation program that supports healthy lifestyle changes in exercise, eating and mindset. Studies show that cardiac patients who complete a rehabilitation program are less likely to have reoccurring heart episodes. To learn more about our Comprehensive Cardiac Rehab program, covered by most insurance including Medicare, please call 530-582-3285.

Tahoe Forest also offers a wide range of health supportive programs like nutritional counseling, personal training, group exercise classes, massage, and biofeedback. We would love to join you on your health journey! For more information, contact Tahoe Forest Center for Health at 530-587-3769 and check out our website at

Lisa Fligor, MS, RDN, is a Tahoe Forest Cardiac Rehab Dietitian. You can reach Lisa at

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