Simple Exercises, Shopping Decisions Can Help Lower Heart Disease Risk

STEPHENVILLE, Texas — Nearly everyone knows that the building blocks of good health are eating right and moving more. It’s in the details that people fall off the wagon. But there are simple steps individuals can take to eliminate some of the guesswork and improve their health.

Dr. Poongodhai Ramachandran
Dr. Poongodhai Ramachandran

The statistics are staggering. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer for women in this country, with one in three women dying from it, according to the American Heart Association. An estimated 90 percent of women meet at least one criteria for risk factors that can predict heart disease. The association also estimates that 80 percent of women’s cardiac events could be prevented by making lifestyle changes.

“It is crucial that women, and men, take control of their health by making simple lifestyle changes,” said Dr. Poongodhai Ramachandran, a physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Stephenville. “Cutting back on salt, exercising daily, eating fruits and vegetables, lowering stress — all of these seemingly small actions can make a big difference in whether you will face heart disease in years to come.”

Exercises for heart health
The American Heart Association says that there is evidence that life expectancy can increase by two hours for every hour a person spends walking. That’s a pretty good return on investment for something that the association also says is the most effective form of exercise to improve heart health. And since it doesn’t involve a gym membership or any tools, walking can be done nearly anywhere for free.

“Many people underestimate the power of walking,” Ramachandran said. “It’s free, easy and can be done nearly anytime. Exercise doesn’t have to be about spending an hour in a gym. It can be a walk around the block that grows longer each week. Those seemingly small steps can have a big impact on your health.”

The American Heart Association also offers other tips for incorporating exercise into your day:

  • Stand while talking on the phone.
  • Park further away from the store and walk the extra steps there and back.
  • Walk to talk to colleagues instead of using the phone or e-mail.
  • Take stairs instead of riding the elevator.

Heart healthy grocery shopping
The grocery store can be full of landmines for individuals watching what they eat. This label claims to have the miracle antioxidant. That one says it improves cholesterol. This other one boasts extra vitamins.

“Individuals should be aware of the ingredients of the foods they eat and try to incorporate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables into their diets,” Ramachandran said.

With a little guidance, eating healthy doesn’t have to be difficult. The American Heart Association offers the following tips:

  • Fruits and vegetables: When fresh items aren’t available, look for frozen or canned vegetables packed in water without sugars, fat or salt added. Avoid fruit juices because the juice version lacks the fiber of the whole fruit.
  • Dairy: Select margarines with zero grams of trans fat. Save buying butter, cream and ice cream for special treats. Read labels for hidden cholesterol and fats.
  • Meats: Opt for cuts of meat labeled “loin” “round” “choice” or “select” as those cuts are the healthier options. Add meat substitutes, such as beans or tofu, to your diet.
  • Bread: Opt for products that have whole grains as the first item in the ingredient list.

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About Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville is a 98-bed acute care, full-service facility serving Erath and surrounding counties since 1926. The hospital's services include inpatient and outpatient surgery, women’s services, advanced diagnostic imaging, inpatient and outpatient physical therapy and wound care. Texas Health Stephenville, an affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, has been recognized as a Nurse-Friendly Hospital and a Level IV Trauma Center. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit

About Texas Health Resources
Texas Health Resources is one of the largest faith-based, nonprofit health care delivery systems in the United States and the largest in North Texas in terms of patients served. Texas Health’s system of 13 hospitals includes Texas Health Harris Methodist, Texas Health Arlington Memorial, Texas Health Presbyterian, and an organization for medical research and education.

Texas Health is a partner in eight additional hospitals or surgery centers.

Texas Health Physicians Group provides a variety of models for engagement with physicians. Texas Health Partners is a joint venture development and management company owned by Texas Health Resources. Texas Health MedSynergies is a joint venture that offers physicians a range of office management and other business services to support their practices. Texas Health SingleSource Staffing is a joint venture designed to help Texas Health hospitals improve patient care by recruiting and retaining quality nurses and allied healthcare professionals. For more information about Texas Health Resources, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit

Doctors on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital.