Heart to Hartman

Health Guide for Congenital Heart Disease

Women’s Wellness: Your Guide to Navigating Menopause.

Here’s the deal, if we are lucky enough to live long enough to enjoy retirement or grandchildren, or whatever we want, then, as women, we will also be “lucky” enough to go through menopause to get there. The changes our bodies undergo during perimenopause can be so irritating and perplexing. What is going on?! With everything from mood swings, to weight gain to loss of sleep while dealing with work, family and maybe managing a chronic disease, what is a girl supposed to do? You may also notice an increase in heart palpitations during this time; could be stress, could be menopause, could be both! If you are experiencing extreme symptoms – and you know what is extreme for you- seek help from your physician. However, there are simple ways for you to become empowered and take charge of your life and your health.

I have put together a workbook that targets some of the most common menopause symptoms and gives you tips to manage them; symptoms like hot flashes (hint: add resistance training), sleep disturbances, weight gain and others. The workbook will empower you with knowledge and tools to start managing your symptoms today.

If you want to start by managing your nutrition, check out this post, This One Is for the Ladies

To download your copy of the guidebook for just $19.99 and start feeling better today, click on this link, or scan the QR code below

Thank you for visiting my website!

Five Heart Healthy Breakfast Options for on the Go!

Ever had those mornings where you are rushing to get out the door so you skip breakfast and as soon as you drive away, you are hungry?  Only me every day! You might not have time to cook up some eggs, and oatmeal with tea and fruit, or whatever you like to have, but you can still get a heart healthy breakfast for on the go- no frozen processed food required, or allowed.

1. Hard boiled eggs.  This is so easy.  You can boil them the night before, even, if you like them cold.  Or put them on the stove as you get everything else ready.  You can even buy a cheap egg cooker that times itself and will shut off automatically.  I like the Dash Automatic egg cooker. It lets you cook up to six hard- or soft-boiled eggs, and you do not even have to watch them because it shuts off automatically.   Once the eggs are boiled, an easy peel method is to drain the water from the pan and then, with the lid on, shake the eggs in the pan to loosen the shells.  They come right off!

If you thought eggs were not heart healthy, you are not alone. We used to think that the cholesterol in eggs raised our own cholesterol and put us at risk for cardiovascular diseases and heart attacks. But the cholesterol our liver makes come from the saturated fat we eat.  Eggs are low in saturated fat and have a good amount of protein, about 6 grams, and is a good source of vitamin D. And boiling your eggs, keeps you from adding any saturated fat, like bacon fat or butter.

I like to put pepper on mine and put them in a container so I can eat them right when I get to work. I have also put them in a zip lock and used the bag as a wrapper to hold the egg when I know I won’t have access to a fork- not preferred, but girl’s gotta eat!

2. The second go- to for me and a lot of others, is overnight oats.  If you have not tried this yet, give it a try tomorrow!  There are so many add-ins, and you can eat it hot or cold. I like to put my old fashioned oats(not quick oats!) in a jar, add some kind of milk (water will work too) fresh or frozen fruit, nuts, maybe protein powder and peanut butter.  Get creative, chocolate protein with some cayenne pepper…. yum! In the morning, you can grab the jar as you head out to work and eat when you get a break. If you want to heat and eat before you walk out the door, it will only take 2 minutes total.  At first, I always heated it up before eating it, but I have also learned to eat it cold and love it just the same.  You can reuse the jar, so it makes it an environmentally friendly breakfast as well.

3. Peanut butter and Jelly.  This reliable lunch stand-by can make a great breakfast too! Choose natural peanut butter that has no added sugar. Peanut butter is high in fat and calories so if you are trying to lose weight, do not over spread.  The fat is the “good” fat.  The monounsaturated fats is oleic acid which positively influences good cholesterol.  The poly unsaturated fat is linolenic acid which helps build muscle. It also contains omega 3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory, so good for your heart. Find a whole grain bread with at least 3 grams of fiber per slice and the least number of ingredients – unless it is nuts or seeds.  Flour, yeast, salt, and water make bread. Ideally, pick preserves over jelly as preserves have real fruit in them.  You can always pick a low sugar jelly, but keep in mind that they will contain sugar alcohols or other chemical sugars to make it sweet.

3.2 Peanut butter and….. almost anything. Grab a banana and your jar of peanut butter on your way out the door.  I just bring a butter knife and dip it in the peanut butter, spread it on the banana and take a bite. Repeat.  You can also prep some peanut butter in a container and slice some apples for on the go.  Peanut butter and celery are also one of my favorites, Throw some raisins on the peanut butter for more iron and fiber.

4. A smoothie.  This is a GREAT breakfast. Use any kind of milk or water as your base. Add your frozen items next.  The great thing about smoothies is, if you have fruit or vegetables that need to be eaten, or they will go bad, put them in the freezer and you will always have some on hand.  Once your frozen food is in, or ice if you prefer, add anything fresh, your protein powder or other add ins and blend.  I like to make the smoothie the night before, so I do not wake the household with the blender. I pour it into a jar, and it is ready to go.  The great thing about smoothies is you can get so many fruits and vegetables in one easy step.  Some vegetables I use are carrots, spinach, and cucumber.  You can use anything you like! Some of my go-to’s are frozen peaches, an orange or tangerine, a banana, a carrot, spinach and vanilla protein, chia and or flax seeds, maybe almond milk, but I mostly just use water.

Another one I like, frozen banana, spinach, peanut butter, some kind of milk and chocolate protein.

5. Plain Greek yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit, seeds, nuts and/ or granola. Be sure to read the label on your granola.  Many are high in sugar, which is not heart healthy.  Greek yogurt has twice the amount of protein as regular, and less sodium and sugar.  I like to put my yogurt and fruit in a container the night before and then just add the nuts or granola in the morning and I’m out the door.

Although we have always heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you do not have to eat it first thing.  If you are not hungry, take it with you and eat it on your morning break.  It is important to learn to listen you YOUR body, not any so called “expert” on you.  Eat when you are hungry and that’s it. Stop listening to external cues that tell you when and what to eat.   I hope you will try some of these soon to get your day off to a great start!

This One is for the Ladies

Having trouble maintaining or losing weight as you ages this you? Is this you?  “I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted because I knew I could work it off in a few days, but not anymore!”  Why?  It is so frustrating!  I have heard people say they have given up all sweets and only lost a pound in 2 months.  Others try to drop below 1000 calories a day just to lose a few pounds. What is going on?!

As a consequence of aging, our estrogen levels deplete.  Estrogen is not only essential for our reproductive health, but it also aids in digestion and leveling out blood glucose (aka blood sugar).  Estrogen mitigates the effects of cortisol and insulin, both of which affect our blood glucose levels. Insulin rises when we eat.  If we eat a lot of sugar or starch, our blood glucose will rise higher.  Insulin promotes the clearing of this glucose from the blood by helping it enter the muscles and liver. Estrogen makes our muscles more sensitive to insulin, thus it easier to clear the glucose out of the blood and into the muscle when we have lots of estrogen. Cortisol makes our blood glucose levels rise at a slower rate than insulin to help us “fight” through our stressful days. So, stress can also add to weight gain.  Our blood does not want all that glucose. Thus, when our muscles and liver (the tanks that store the glucose) are full, the glucose will be stored as far, often around our waistlines.  As we approach menopause, we become more sensitive to the effects of carbohydrates (aka, sugar!) and stress. To compound the problem, estrogen also promotes healthy digestion.  With a lack of estrogen, you may notice bloating or constipation. What’s a girl to do? 

First, have a conversation with your physician.  Hormone replacement may be right for you, but it is not for everyone.  In the meantime, the obvious is limit simple sugars, like cakes, pasta, candy, bread etc. But other foods can also increase blood glucose like starchy carbs such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, and oatmeal.  Obviously, we need to eat these foods for the nutrients, but limit them. So, what is a non-starchy vegetable? Here is a list that will help.  Try eating a lot more from this list over the next month and a lot less starchy food and see if you do not start to feel better and lose a few pounds.


  • Spinach
  • Romain, red or green leaf lettuce,
  • Turnip, mustard, and collard greens
  • Swiss Chard


  • Arugula
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Radish
  • Bok Choy
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Kale

Root Vegetables

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Parsnips

Allium Vegetables

  • Onion
  • Chives
  • Shallots
  • Garlic

Other non-starchy vegetables

  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Crook Neck squash
  • Butternut Squash (right in the middle)
  • Pumpkin
  • Asparagus
  • Okra
  • Egg Plant

Try experimenting with these.  You can make a butternut squash omelet, add spinach, arugula, sweet potato, or pumpkin to a smoothie. Blend beets or radishes into dips.

Another important reason to eat a lot of vegetables is the nutrient content and inflammation fighting effect of those nutrients. You already have a chronic disease. Protect yourself from getting another one like coronary artery disease, or type II diabetes. Your risk for acquiring these and other diseases increases as you age anyway so you have to do all you can to stay healthy.

As always, exercise! Get your cardio and your strength training in. And manage your stress.

10 Tips to Optimal Wellness

Living your best life is more than just a catch phrase.  Pick a few of these tips to start on your journey to optimal wellness. As you get good at incorporating one tip into your life, pick another one until you have mastered all 10.  Enjoy the benefits as you venture toward optimal wellness.

  1. Be intentional Be intentional with everything wellness.  If you do not intend to exercise, mediate, cook at home etc., you won’t. Decide what you want to add or delete from your life, make a daily plan.  Start small and celebrate each little accomplishment to make your intentions a habit
  2. Be mindful.  What does it mean to be mindful?  According to Merriman- Websters it means to be aware, heedful. This means paying attention to what you are doing and how you are feeling.  Take a minute before starting work and do a simple body scan. When you are eating, do you savor every bite or scarf it down?
  3. Lift “Strength is independence!”, that is one of my favorite sayings.  Walking and other cardio is great! You must add resistance training to get the full benefits of exercise.
  4. Power Add some power to your workouts. A few days a week, stress your body through some power exercises; something simple like a single leg hop, or something complex like a plyo pushup
  5. Think If you are having trouble focusing, if you feel mentally exhausted, take a walk, do some yoga; just move.  Many studies show how your cognitive performance improves after exercise.
  6. Fun Do you remember the last time you had fun?  Have you forgotten what it felt like? Add some fun into each day.  It does not have to be a trip to an amusement park.  It can be something as simple as watching a comedy skit or catching up with an old friend.
  7. Community/ Support We all learned through Covid how important it is to stay connected to each other.  Saint Mother Theresa said, “The problems of this world are because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”  Find your community.
  8. Fueling We really are what we eat.  If you are not meeting your protein needs, eating too many simple carbs and too much saturated fats, you will not feel well or be well.  Most people do not get 5 servings or fruits and vegetables each day.  Do you?
  9. Boundaries What are you saying “yes” to when you should be saying “no”?  If you are giving all your energy away to your family, your job, you child’s school, your church, your volunteer efforts, what is left for you?  What is most important to you?  Are you giving it your all, or do you not have enough time and energy to devote to it?
  10. Stress management. We all have stress; some of it good and some of it bad.  How are you managing it? Do you ever get a chance to talk a short walk alone, meditate, or simply take some deep breaths?  If not, this should be your priority.

Earth Day Workout!

Earth Day!  Take it Outside.

Since April is Earth Month, let’s take our workouts outside and enjoy nature. This workout is a series of cardio intervals that also focus on legs, hips, core, and shoulders.

I like to warm up, then set my timer for 30-45 seconds for my work intervals and 20-30 seconds for the rest interval.  You can rest longer between rounds.  Do all the exercises one time before starting over again on the second round.  Try to get 2-3 rounds.  Two rounds will take you 12 minutes if you do a 30 sec work/ 30 sec rest interval. Be sure to go at your own pace.  Once you are done working out, be sure to stretch out and do some deep breathing to get you ready for the rest of your day.

Exercise 1 Mountain Climbers works the core, chest, and shoulders, along with your heart and lungs.

Set up Come to a high plank position, hands directly under your shoulders.  Quads, glutes and core are contracted and tight to hold you in position.  “Screw” your hands into the ground like you are opening up a jar.  This will set your shoulder blades against your rib cage which will protect your shoulder joint.

Move When the timer starts pull one knee toward your same side elbow and return it to the start position without letting the foot touch the ground.  Switch legs.  It is like your legs are running with your hands on the ground. If you get tired, hold the plank until the time is up, or move slower.

Exercise 2 Jump Rope works your cardiovascular system, calves and is great for agility and balance. If you have no jump rope, you can use a crack in the sidewalk or a stick. Jump at your own pace

Exercise 3 Plank Shoulder Taps works the core, glutes, adductors, back and abs, and the shoulders.

Set up Come into a high plank with your hands directly under your shoulders.  Keep your feet as wide as you need to keep your hips stable.  Tighten your glutes and abdominals.

Move Press one hand into the ground while bringing the opposite hand up to touch the shoulder of the hand that is on the ground.  Place that hand down and then alternate keeping the hips stable

Exercise 4 Pulsing Squat works the glutes, quads, and hamstring.

Set up Keeping your chest lifted, sink into your heels, and bend your knees like you are sitting back in a chair.

Move Hold in the lowered position and pulse up and down.

Exercise 5 Bicycle Crunches works the core.  The goal of this exercise is to keep the hips stable while moving the arms and legs. Move elbow to opposite knee and then alternate under control.  Go at your own pace!  Faster is not better with this exercise.  In fact, slower is more difficult!

Exercise 6 Squat Jacks This is a cardio exercise and works your quads and glutes. 

Set up Start standing straight up arms overhead.  When I teach this to children, I tell them to make a pencil 😊 Move Then jump or step out to a squat and pull your arms down, elbows toward the rib cage.  Then return to the “pencil” and keep moving between the two poses for the entire interval

If you enjoy this workout, please feel free to help my protein shake fund and allow me to keep doing what I do on this blog

Less than 5% of Adults are in Proper Care for Their CHD

…And now I know why. Let’s be real, shall we? It is not because we were told we were fixed. It is not because we do not care. It is because of the Affordable Care Act. Our choice of providers has been taken from us by hospitals who can gobble up doctors whos own practice can not compete with the hospital providers and the insurance companies any more. Insurance companies won’t cover certain adult cardiologists if they also treat children. This is what happens when administrators and insurance companies and bureaucrats dictate care.

After years of advocating that adults be seen by adult congenital heart specialists, I have now become one who no longer has access to my doctor unless I want to pay 600.00 just for a resting EKG. Come on. Really? That does not even include the interpretation fee. Even if I had that kind of money, its the principle of the matter. I literally train college kids in 5 minutes to do a resting EKG. But hospitals can charge that, and we are all ok with that? Must be. In my Facebook group of other adult CHDers, they all have the exact same experience fighting with the insurance company. I have two friends being bounced around by doctors and insurers right now to try to schedule a surgery for a heart valve.

The CHD fight is hard enough on some days and now we are adding the stress of insurance to just trying to be seen. I’m out. I am one who will no longer give my money to Florida Blue or Baptist just so they can tell me where I can and cannot go for care. I’ll pay the penalty tax and die. That’s what the authors of the affordable care wanted anyway.

Full Body Workout

Get ready for some fun!  Combining these 5 exercises makes for one amazing full body workout that will promote your overall strength and balance. You can do this workout anywhere!

Time: This workout can take as much time as you have! If you have 15 minutes, maybe do 2 rounds of 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest. You can also count reps, if you prefer. Eight to twelve reps of exercise per set. Be sure to warm up and stretch after you have completed your sets. If you have more time, add more rounds.

Go through all the exercises 1 time before starting over with your second, third, or fourth set.

Equipment: (Links are affiliate links that help me keep doing what I do on this site)

Don’t have the equipment? No problem! You can do all these exercises except Exercise 3 with no equipment at all.

This is a 1 minute video of the work out

Exercise 1

Lateral lunge to curtsy squat with a medicine ball 30-45 secs of work or 8-12 reps

Works: Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings, Core, Arms

Be sure to keep your abs tight throughout the movement. The medicine ball is just a way to add resistance to make the exercise more challenging. You can use a dumbbell or no weight at all.

To begin, step out to one side shifting your weight through your lead leg (the one that is stepping out) heel. Keeping your trail leg straight, lower your body from the hips, making sure your knee stays in line with your forward facing toes. Push the weight out in front of you, keeping your core tight and your shoulder blade stable against the rib cage. Next, push back from the lead leg and bring it behind and across the body like a curtsy, and lower down with your body weight on your front leg. So your weight is being transferred to the stationary leg . Do not let the back leg take a lot of weight. It is for balance at this point. Bend your arms completing a bicep curl as your curtsy. Do all reps on one side before changing sides.

Be sure to use a light weight because your arms are getting double the work of the legs with this exercise.

Exercise 2

Single Leg Cobra 30-45 Secs of Work or 8-12 Reps on Each Leg

Works: Mid-back, Backs of Arms, Hips

It also is good for balance and ankle stability. You can do this exercise with dumbbells or no weights at all.

To set up, place all your weight on one foot. The foot should be “screwed into ” the ground. The other leg is slightly behind, like a kick stand. Palms are facing each other. Perform a slight hip hinge on the stationary leg, leaning slightly forward from the hip. As you bring your arms straight back so your palms end up at hip height, lift your “kick stand” leg slightly off the ground. Keep your core tight. Move your arms as if you have no elbows. They stay straight and try to pull the shoulder blades together behind you. You can also do this exercise with the “kick stand” leg staying on the ground.

Exercise 3

Stability Ball Stir the Pot 4-5 Reps in Each Direction

Works: Core

This is by far the most difficult exercise of the workout and you do need a stability ball. 

To “stir the pot”, Place your elbows and fore arms on the ball and come into a plank position, supporting your weight on the ball. The closer your chest is to the ball, the easier the movement is. Be sure to contract your glutes, abs and quads. Slowly rotate your elbows while pressing down on the ball as if you are stirring a pot with elbows. The smaller the circles, the easier it is to control the movement. Stir 4-5 times in each direction. You will probably notice one way is harder than the other. This exercise takes practice!

Exercise 4

Goblet Squat with a Band Tap Out 30-45 Secs of Work or 8-12 Reps

Works: Glutes, Quads

Place the resistance band above your knees or around the arch of your foot. To set up, hold the weight in both hands against your chest. Put your feet a comfortable distance apart and “screw your feet to the floor” Doing so will activate your hips and protect your knees. Hold your chest up and slide your shoulder blades down toward your back pockets. In the squat position, keep your chest lifted and shoulder blades slid down. Tap one foot out and bring it back to the start position. Stay in your squat and tap the other foot out. Come out of your squat and repeat.

Exercise 5

Squat to a bear – knee tap 30-45 Secs of Work or 8-12 Reps

Works: Hips, Core, and Shoulder Stability

To set up, keep your feet a comfortable distance apart, “screwed into the floor” like always. Raise your arms to shoulders height, shoulder blades down. Move into your squat and then hip hinge forward to place your hands on the floor, keeping the knees bent, hovering above the floor. Contract your hips and core and life one arm off the floor to touch the opposite knee. Switch arms, push back to the squat and then stand up.


If you enjoyed this work out please consider contributing to my Protein Shake Fund.

Wellness Journal

Ever get discouraged that there is so much information on how to be healthy that it is too overwhelming? Where do you start? What is best for you? How do you know what to eat? How much exercise do you need? What is the best way to manage your stress? You are the expert on you, but this is where the heart to Hartman motto of “Intentional Intuitive and Mindful “plays into your health plan.

Be intentional about where you want to start. Maybe your goal is to lose weight or “feel better” or have more energy. No matter what the goal is, the process is managing your time. You only have so much time in the day. Manage your time and your stress by being intentional with which aspect of your health you want to focus on first; nutrition, activity, meditation, socializing, praying etc and go from there. Ideally you choose one of these areas to start with; just changing one thing at a time. Track your progress and see how that change is working. It is hard to know what is working and what isn’t, if you try to change your whole life at once. It is also a recipe for failure. Take your time. Changing is a process and a journey.

Next, be intuitive. Learn to listen to your body. This is where you can use the Heart to Hartman Wellness Journal. Track your progress using this resource so you know what is working for you and what is not. This is the first edition, and you can download it for free.

Being mindful about what you are you doing, how it is feeling to you and how it is effecting you is the way you know how and where to start. Notice not only how it feels to you, but what you think about it. For each change you try to make, notice the thought, feeling and emotion that comes up with each success and failure. You will have failures; that is how you learn.

I hope you find this journal helpful as you take your first step toward better health. Please share it and share my website. Please comment on your success and failures as well! If you like this post and want to Buy me a Protein Shake click on the link and thank you!

Meet the Jijo Client of the Month

October’s client of the month is Stephanie Wolf.

Stephanie has been training with me on Jijo since we launched in April. She has attended over 32 live classes and many recorded sessions! She is a 5:15 AM regular, and when she does not have work meetings, she can join an evening class like, Mindful Movement

 “I love Melissa’s early morning classes for getting me up and moving with a good combination of strength and cardio.  It’s a great way to jump-start my day.”

When asked what she likes about training on Jijo, she said, “I like Jijo because of the convenience accessing recorded classes anytime.  It’s perfect when traveling or when other things interrupt my usual routine.”

“Melissa’s a great coach – motivating without being too pushy. She helps me build strength in my weak areas and can easily modify a routine to accommodate my limitations. “

The Jijo client of the month gets paid to workout! He/she is awarded a 20.00 Amazon gift card.

Join us on Jijo

World Heart Day!

Today is World Heart Day!  Hmmmm what could you do that would benefit your heart and help others around the world with their hearts?  Sign up for the first annual Hearts with Running Legs Anniversary 5k Run/Walk.  This walk is hosted by Estrellita de Belen and is a benefit for children in Venezuela who need life saving heart surgeries.

The walk/ run will be a fun event taking place in beautiful Jacksonville Beach Florida on November 6th starting at 09:00. The event is a result of the tireless work of the founder of Estrellita de Belen, a Venezuelan born women with a CHD.  Each year 2000 children in Venezuela die waiting for heart surgery.  Her mission is to help those children get the lifesaving surgeries they need, and all the funds raised at her events support that mission.

This walk will be a way for your benefit your own heart health in three ways.  One: the obvious, exercise is medicine.  Walking and running are forms of cardiovascular exercise that your heart, lungs and blood vessels crave no matter what your disease state. Two: being on the beach and with a community of likeminded people, improves stress levels, and stress damages your heart and blood vessels.  And three:  the walk provides a means for you to be altruistic.  Altruism also improves heart health.  Giving to others makes us feel good ourselves.

So, mark your calendars and get out walking to prepare for the event.  I cannot wait to see everyone there.  Heart to Hartman is sponsoring this great event and may even lead a warmup….

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Heart to Hartman

Health Guide for Congenital Heart Disease