Improving Your Heart's Health

This month, Kowalski's is sponsoring three opportunities for you to meet cardiologist Courtney Baechler, MD, Vice President of the Penny George™ Institute for Health and Healing and physician at United Heart and Vascular Clinic as she and Sue Moores, M.S., R.D., Kowalski's Nutritionist, co-present "Improving Your Heart's Health" in several of our neighborhood markets. In this class, you'll learn the importance of lifestyle choices on heart health, discover what's new in the field of heart health, discuss what you can do to help your heart stay well, find out what to ask your doctor and sample foods that are great for heart health.

Sue recently sat down with Dr. Baechler to discuss news in heart health:

Sue Moores (SM): So, what's NEW in heart health?
Dr. Courtney Baechler (CB): Stress and inflammation as they relate to heart disease are "hot." It's pretty clear stress significantly affects our likelihood of getting heart disease (and other chronic diseases). When people become stressed, inflammatory hormones increase in the body, and that starts an ugly internal storm. That storm promotes the start of heart disease: increased blood sugar, increased blood pressure, increased cholesterol, increased cortisol level (a stress hormone), etc. Because we don't have a great way to measure everyone's stress, we've been slow to discuss the importance of managing it. However, there's a growing discussion of foods that are naturally anti-inflammatory, physical activity that "balances" the body and helps relieve stress, as well as the importance of mental health balance.

SM: What will never change in terms of what's recommended for heart health?
CB: The importance of prevention such as with diet, physical activity, stress management, etc. A large study called "INTERHEART" has discovered that throughout the world over 90% of heart disease can be prevented!

SM: What has you most excited in the field of heart health?
CB: The growing concern and interest from health systems, providers, and health plans to keep people well is very exciting. At my own cardiology clinic, in addition to stress testing, angiograms and pacemakers, we now offer integrative, preventive approaches [to heart health] including holistic nutrition, exercise physiology and strategies to improve sleep and stress.

SM: What do you hope everyone knows (or will take time to learn) about their heart health?
CB: There is no drug that I can prescribe, no surgery I can perform or stent that I can place that is as effective as eating well, being active and keeping your mind and body balanced.

SM: What do you wish would fade away in terms of health advice people believe or have heard?
CB: The fat-free craze! The assumption that all fats are bad for the heart is old news! Turns out there are lots of foods that have good fats for your heart like avocado, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, etc.!

SM: What has been the biggest surprise to you over the last few years in terms of heart health?
CB: The importance of sleep. Sleep is really a time for people to heal and restore naturally, yet so many of us are sleep deprived. Technology in the bedroom isn't doing us any favors, and there has been a big push in sleep studies toward folks suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. We realize more than ever before how poor sleep affects the inflammatory process, causes weight gain and, in people who suffer from apnea, can result in direct harm to the heart.

SM: Why would someone want to go to one of your upcoming classes at Kowalski's? Why should they care?
CB: 90% of health outcomes have nothing to do with health care! We live the majority of our time outside of the doctor's office and while it's important to have a provider you trust and seek routine care with, the majority of your future health rests in your hands. Some statistics show that 80% of your weight maintenance comes from how we nourish ourselves. This is an opportunity to pair the joy of food and eating to nourish your body with some of the latest news on heart health all in one class!

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