Heart to Hartman

Health Guide for Congenital Heart Disease


As this crazy year draws to a close and a more hopeful one begins, let us look at any New Year’s resolutions you may be considering. Do you want to get more fit, be healthier? Eat better? Walk more? Whatever your resolutions are, do you have a plan to be successful? Would you be open to considering a different type of resolution?

Just because it is a new year, does not mean it is a new you. You did not suddenly morph into an athletes or health nut over night. So what will it take this time to be successful? Might I suggest simple balance? Dr. Dean Ornish has created a lifestyle plan to treat those with various acquired chronic disease. Following his plan of nutrition, exercise, stress management, and giving and receiving love and support can help prevent you from acquiring any more chronic diseases, deal with any limitations of your defect, and promote over all wellness.

Let’s break these down starting with my favorite, exercise. Choose what you love and try to do a little each day. Something is better than nothing. Many people like to buy workout equipment or join a gym in the new year. Only do this if it excites you, and you have a plan of how to do it every day. If you like to swim, what good is a treadmill?

Nutrition: The Ornish plan is vegetarian. I like a plant based diet, but you need to find what works for you. If you do not have acquired heart disease, or high cholesterol you may not need to reduce or eliminate meats and other saturated fats. Track your food intake for 3 days. Just list what you eat. Then look back and decide what are your favorites that you cannot live without, and what are unhealthy and you are willing to limit. Then develop a plan of how you would like your diet to look. Forget about calories and portions for now. Just strive for 5-9 fruits and vegetables each day (that’s a lot!) and choose whole foods over processed.

Stress management: Many of us with CHD struggle with anxiety. Runs of a fib and v tach, or being short of breath can be unnerving. Stress is a killer and managing it empowers you. Add some “breath breaks” to your day. There are apps like Calm or Headspace. I just go to YouTube and choose a relaxation method. Try a few to see what you like; guided meditation, progressive relaxation, imagery. etc. See which ones fit your personality the best. This step is non negotiable in my mind. You must add this stress management component to any plan. Maybe just start with with a 5 minute breathing exercise. If you also have acquired disease, Dr. Ornish recommends an hour each day.

Giving and receiving love and support: We all tend to become absorbed in our problems. I get sick of myself! 🙂 Let your family know you value them. Seek out ways to connect with friends and family; especially now when people are still locked down. We’ve seen the suicide rates increase due to lock downs. What more evidence do we need that connecting with others is important to our health? I have included a picture of my heart friends. We got together before Christmas and just spent time with each other. We lean on each other when going through any health issues and otherwise just have fun together! We have parties, go on walks, get tacos or coffee. Find your community/ family/ friend group and give your time. You will end up getting more than you give.

Giving and receiving love and support
Cheers! Seek balance to create wellness

Just like any other habit or resolution, these will take practice, but implementing only 1 of these techniques will help you feel better. Planning is key. Change does not just happen. Track your progress in your heart to hartman bullet journal that you can obtain through our “shop” link.

Strive for balance and the wellness will come! Happy 2021!

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Heart to Hartman

Health Guide for Congenital Heart Disease


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