Experts Say Heart Health Is In Our Hands

Medical center hosts overflow session on avoiding our No. 1 killer

A panel of experts, including Michael Barland with Payson Regional Medical Center, addressed a packed house at the Senior Circle Feb. 13 on the topic of heart health.

Photo by Andy Towle. |

A panel of experts, including Michael Barland with Payson Regional Medical Center, addressed a packed house at the Senior Circle Feb. 13 on the topic of heart health.


The health of our hearts is in our hands — that is the takeaway a packed house at the Senior Circle received from a panel of four experts.

Hosting a Red Panel for American Heart Month, the Payson Regional Medical Center’s (PRMC) outreach efforts through the Senior Circle provided an array of information at a Feb. 13 lunch. Speakers were Jennifer Dumbolton, D.O., Main Street Healthcare; Mary McMullen, PRMC dietician; Michael Barland, PMRC Rehabilitation Services; and Toby Paulson, D.O., Payson Healthcare Specialists.

Did you know we’re supposed to avoid croissants? That gave everyone a good laugh when the choice of a turkey or tuna sandwich was served on large croissants.

Heart Health Tips

• Eat a combination of five

fruits and vegetables per


• Use whole grains and try

to get more soluble fiber

into your diet

• Limit sodium to 2,300

milligrams per day

• Drink alcohol only in

moderation (two drinks

for men, one for women)

Avoiding or minimizing the use of certain foods is one of the primary ways to reduce our risk for heart disease.

Dumbolton explained a healthy body needs fat to protect cells, provide energy, combat depression — and the right kind of fat can help fire up and cool down the body.

Good fats are either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, which remain liquid at room temperature. She advised the audience to get in the habit of reading food labels to make sure the dominant fats in a product are beneficial.

“Diet and exercise are the first lines of defense against heart disease,” Dumbolton said, adding everyone should try to exercise 45 minutes a day, five days a week.

“I’d say have an avocado a day and keep the doctor away,” McMullen told the group. She also recommended having at least two servings of fish (broiled or baked, not fried) twice a week totaling eight ounces (or sit down and have a big, eight-ounce chunk of salmon once a week).

McMullen cautioned the audience about the use of supplements. She said phytochemicals being touted as beneficial for heart health, cancer and immune systems, etc., should generally not be taken in supplement form, but brought into the diet in their natural form.

Evidence suggests a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains reduces the risk of certain types of cancer and other diseases. However, little scientific evidence supports claims that taking phytochemical supplements confers the same benefits.

Heart health foods

• Meat/protein (up to 5 ounces per day): lean cuts of meat,

chicken and turkey without the skin, fish, egg whites, dry

beans (prepared without added fats and salt)

• Dairy (2 or more servings per day): fat-free or low-fat dairy

products, cheeses with no more than 3 grams of fat per

ounce, low-fat yogurt

• Fats/oils (5 to 8 teaspoons per day): corn oil, olive oil,

canola oil and sunflower oil

• Breads, etc. (6 to 11 servings per day): whole-grain breads,

pasta, rice, plain baked potato

• Fruits/vegetables (3 to 5 servings per day): any fresh,

frozen or dried fruits and vegetables

• Snacks (in very limited amounts): sorbet, low-fat frozen

yogurt, plain popcorn, pretzels.

Foods to minimize: Shellfish; duck; egg yolks; 2 percent milk; sour cream; nuts; avocados; olives; peanut oil; granola; biscuits; muffins; cornbread; canned fruit in heavy syrup; homemade cakes, cookies and pies prepared with unsaturated oils.

Foods to avoid: Processed meats such as bacon, bologna and hot dogs; whole milk; Swiss, American, cheddar and cream cheese; butter; lard; bacon fat; croissants; pastries; egg noodles; coconut; vegetables prepared in butter or cream; ice cream; chocolate; potato chips; buttered popcorn.

McMullen said one of the very best Web sites to help create a heart healthy diet is choosemy created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The site has a lot of reader-friendly information on healthy diets. It also includes a “super tracker” tool to help people compare their diet and activity over a three-day period to recommended guidelines.

McMullen said the American Heart Association and the National Cholesterol Education Program also maintain useful Web sites.

McMullen advocated exercising for 30 to 60 minutes every day.

“You have the power to change your heart disease risk,” McMullen said.


A panel of experts, including Mary McMullen with Payson Regional Medical Center, addressed a packed house at the Senior Circle Feb. 13 on the topic of heart health.

Barland said exercise not only improves basic health, it helps reduce body weight, stress and blood pressure while also both lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and boosting HDL (good cholesterol).

“When we experience stress, adrenaline and blood pressure are elevated. Blood is diverted to the extremities — it is the flight or fight response,” he said, adding that is not a response we need in daily lives today.

He said when stressing the heart — for whatever reason — can lead to diabetes and other conditions, depression, anger, etc. Being overweight also stresses the heart and joints.

“With movement, we breathe deeply, increase circulation. It is distracting (if we don’t run on a treadmill in front of the television) as it gets us outside and into the world. Done in a group, it is a way to socialize.”

Barland said keeping your heart healthy requires burning more calories than you take in. Exercise can be anything from just walking to dancing or yard work (30 to 60 minutes a day); just pick something you enjoy and do it. The more you do it, the better and stronger you will get at it.

If someone who has had a heart attack wants to get more active, Barland said they should check with their doctor first. “Start conservatively and see how you feel. For instance, walking and swimming (are good for those recovering), but it should just be in short bursts.

“Pay attention to your body,” he said.

If when all is said and done for your heart health, you still need to know the symptoms of a heart attack.

Perhaps it starts with a pain or burning in your chest. But it could be a recurring pain in your shoulder or your jaw or your arm. Nausea, sweating and shortness of breath might accompany it.

Roughly 935,000 Americans suffer a heart attack each year. Approximately 600,000 people in the U.S. die each year from cardiovascular disease, which makes it the leading cause of death in this country.

Paulson discussed the warning signs of a heart attack.

Heart disease warning signs and risk factors

• High Blood Pressure

• High LDL Cholesterol

• Smoking

• Diabetes

• Obesity or being


• Diet high in fat and sugar

• Lack of exercise

• Excessive alcohol use

• Stress

“The studies we are still using were done on middle-aged, healthy white men in the 1970s,” he said. At that time, the symptoms were identified as chest pressure, pain radiating to the jaw and left shoulder, shortness of breath, sweating.

“Everyone is different, though. Some may have stomach pain,” he said.

Treatment of a heart attack can include either angioplasty or bypass surgery. Which treatment is used depends on the patient and the condition of their arteries and other health factors. For instance, Paulson said if an individual has diabetes, the preferred option would be a bypass due to the condition of blood veins and vessels with diabetics.

To help Paulson and other Rim doctors with diagnosing heart health, PRMC will have a new CATH LAB sometime this year. It will be a diagnostic tool and any high-risk patients will still be sent elsewhere for treatment.

The new diagnostic equipment will help physicians and their patients have more informed discussions about the best options: behavior modification through a better diet and more exercise, medication, simple procedures or more complex surgery.


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