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Cardiovascular Wellness & Support

An estimated 80 percent of cardiac and stroke events can be prevented through action and education. You’re never too old—or too young—to take steps toward a healthier heart.

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health is dedicated to your heart health. From helping you prevent conditions before they start to offering you support and education after your treatment, we will be with you every step of the journey to live a healthy life.

Are you taking good care of your heart?

Preventive cardiology

Most people can do a lot to help reduce their risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It’s never too late to make better health choices. All you need is a goal, a plan and the desire to live better.

Managing your risk factors and controlling your cholesterol levels requires long-term effort. We are here to help you, whether you need to manage complex cholesterol disorders or make basic lifestyle improvements.

Preventive cardiology is a specialized team of cardiologists, nurse practitioners, clinical lipid specialists, clinical dietitians and pharmacists who work with you to create individualized strategies to improve your health.

Our services include:

  • Long-term risk reduction strategies focusing on lifestyle changes, such as exercise, diet, weight loss, tobacco cessation and self-monitoring
  • Introduction and management of appropriate medications
  • Comprehensive cardiac risk-factor assessment
  • Appropriate use of advanced cholesterol testing and vascular imaging to assess risk and guide treatment decisions
  • Diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, diabetes and prediabetes

Heart health resources

Heart health classes, health talks and events

Smoking cessation support group

Patient stories

Tips for making heart-healthy changes

  • Maintain a healthy weight

    • Avoid drinking your calories; choose water and avoid high-sugar beverages like soda, blended coffee drinks and energy drinks.
    • Avoid skipping breakfast; eating in the morning will start up your metabolism.
    • Eat every three to five hours to keep your metabolism moving.
    • Meal planning is key to weight management. Pick one day a week to write out your menu and stock your home with healthy options based on your menu plan. Also, avoid going grocery shopping on an empty stomach.
    • Exercise is essential to long-term success with weight loss.
    • Eat out as little as possible; when you do, make smart, healthy choices.
    • Keep a food record to identify where or when you are overeating.
    • Fill up on fiber. High-fiber foods will help you feel full longer with fewer calories.
  • Eating out the healthy way

    High sugar and fat content in restaurant food can be bad for your heart, so be cautious with your choices. Avoid deep-fried foods, cream-based soups, white sauces, gravies and high-fat meats. Instead, look for fish options, choose broiled, grilled, steamed or baked items prepared with little or no added oils, and request steamed veggies and whole-grain starches. Another great calorie-saving alternative is to share your entrée with a friend or have half your meal boxed up for another day.

    Many restaurants have nutrition facts available online or on the menu to help you make smarter choices. Do some research before going out and select restaurants that offer healthy menu options.

  • Healthy portion control

    Prevent overeating and promote a balanced diet by practicing portion control.

    • The human body needs fresh fruits and veggies most, so fill your plate with those first.
    • A simple way to control portion sizes is by eating from smaller plates. By decreasing the amount of space on your plate, you are automatically decreasing your portion sizes.
    • For an easy portioning tip, fill your plate as follows:
      • ½ your plate should contain fruits and veggies
      • ¼ your plate should contain whole grains, like brown rice or whole-wheat pasta
      • ¼ your plate should contain protein, like a lean meat or fish
    • Eating smaller, more frequent meals can help you stick to smaller portions.
  • Eating healthy fats

    Some types of fat are better for your heart health than others:

    • Limit saturated fat to 10 percent of your total daily calories. Saturated fat is found in dairy, meats, tropical oils and candy. Look for low-fat dairy and lean meats.
    • Eliminate trans fats (hydrogenated oils) as much as possible. These are found primarily in packaged commercial bakery items like muffins, cakes, cookies and pastries. If you want baked goods, use heart-healthy canola oil and make your own at home.
    • Mono and polyunsaturated fats are healthier for your heart. These are found in plant sources like nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and canola oil.
    • Choose healthier fats when cooking. These include canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean and sunflower oils.
  • Snacking tips

    Snacks can help keep your metabolism revved up between meals and keep your appetite in control. Avoid packaged foods high in salt and sugar; instead, choose fresh, whole foods. Smart options include:

    • Apples and natural peanut butter
    • Baby carrots with hummus
    • ¼ cup of dry roasted, unsalted almonds with a handful of grapes
    • One cup of plain low-fat yogurt with fresh berries
    • One slice of whole-grain bread with peanut butter and a sliced pear
  • Getting active

    Exercise can improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, help manage stress, promote weight loss and give you more energy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity, aerobic activity. Adults also should do muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate- or high-intensity and involve major muscle groups on two or more days a week.

    Ultimately, some exercise is better than none. Set an attainable goal—even 10 minutes of exercise—and reach for that. You can increase your time the stronger and more used to physical activity you get. Walking, cycling, swimming, tennis, strength training and yoga are options that can improve your heart health.

    If you need help planning an exercise program, your doctor can let you know which exercises are safe for your condition, then set an appropriate and realistic goal for starting a new fitness program.