Is it ever too late to change your diet in hopes of improving your heart health — even if you’ve suffered a heart attack? The answer is a resounding “no” according to experts. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study that looked at the dietary habits of 74,000 men and women over a 12 year period. It found that the healthier a person ate (more fruits and vegetables, less processed foods, etc.), the lower the risk of premature death. The study also showed that even a small 20% improvement in dietary habits no matter how old you are can make a big difference.
Board-certified cardiologist Marvin Appel, M.D., F.A.C.C., who treats patients at Brand New Day, a Medicare Advantage prescription health plan available in 12 California counties, says that clogged arteries are the direct result of many factors — especially diet.
“Plaque buildup thickens and stiffens artery walls and narrows the arteries to inhibit blood flow through your arteries to your organs and tissues — a condition known as atherosclerosis, which is the most common cause of heart disease. A key to reversing this condition is through diet,” explains Appel, who says that losing weight, exercising and stopping smoking are other key lifestyle changes that can improve heart health.
To help its members change their dietary habits, Brand New Day’s Embrace Program, which specializes in helping members with heart disease, hypertension and/or diabetes, offers periodic cooking classes and a free, colorful handbook called, “Simply Healthy Living.” In it, author Laura Davis-Loschivao offers healthy alternatives to everyday foods that could contribute to heart disease:
FAVORITE FOODS HEALTHIER SUBSTITUTIONS
Ground beef Ground Turkey
White/milk chocolate Dark chocolate
Sour cream Low-fat yogurt/cottage cheese (equal parts mixed)
All-purpose flour Whole wheat flour
Processed sugar Stevia/erythritol and natural fruit juice for sauces
Salt Vinegar, lemon juice, herbs and spices
Steak/pork Fresh fish (especially salmon, trout and tuna)
Eggs Egg whites
White rice Brown rice
Other rules of thumb offered by Davis-Loschivao are to avoid foods in commercial packaging and/or wrapped in cellophane and increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
In addition to its Embrace Plan, Brand New Day offers a number of specialty plans in addition to its standard Medicare plan. They include:
• Bridges Plan — for members with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients
• SelectCare Plan — for members who reside in long-term care (nursing homes) facilities
• Harmony Plan — for members with mental illness including major depression, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and paranoid disorder
For qualifying members, the plans cover transportation to and from medical appointments; vision, dental and hearing aids; 24-hour/day nurse and physician line; and health nurses and life coaches. In addition, members with chronic illnesses are not only treated medically, but in a variety of other ways including:
• Education about the member’s chronic or ongoing medical conditions and avoidable risks
• Self-testing and monitoring
• Medication adherence to doctor orders
• Preventive care planning
• Linkage to community support programs
Brand New Day is the Medicare product name of Universal Care, Inc., a privately held California Knox-Keene Healthcare Service Plan licensed by the California Department of Managed Health Care and contracted with the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services as a Medicare Advantage contractor. Universal Care, Inc. is owned and operated by an experienced group of managed care executives and physicians. Universal Care, Inc. was founded in 1983. For more information, visit BNDHMO.com or call (866) 255-4795.