Guest post: LifeBridge Health providers offer realistic approach to a stronger heart

The pathway to having a stronger heart is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Every individual is unique, which is why Melissa Kinstlinger M.S., RDN, LDN, CDCES, quality coordinator of the Diabetes and Nutrition Center, outpatient dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist for Northwest Hospital, offers individualized care to her clients.

In honor of American Heart Month in February, and as a part of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) #StrongerHearts initiative with LifeBridge Health, Kinstlinger and Hannah Dressel, RDN, at Northwest Hospital and Grace Medical Center, share golden (but realistic) gems on approaching heart-healthy nutrition.

“We want to help people reach their health goals,” says Kinstlinger. “The point is to reduce risk. There isn’t one automatic food that will help you have a healthier heart, but the goal should be to have three to five servings of vegetables every day.”

Dressel would advise clients to “take small steps” by adding more plant-based foods and produce to their diets.

Kinstlinger shares that people should:

  • Have no more than 1500 mg of sodium each day
  • Be mindful that foods with 300 mg of sodium or more are should be considered “high-sodium foods”
  • Cook with salt-free garlic, herb and garlic, and onion powder seasonings
  • Eat monounsaturated (healthy) fats, unsalted food varieties and fiber-rich foods.

Dressel adds that cooking with olive oil and eating whole grains, beans, and legumes can help a client become healthier. Also, okra is a vegetable that clients who love southern food appreciate. Still, it is nutrient-rich and may help lower the risk of heart disease and lower glucose levels.

Kinstlinger stresses that not eating certain foods altogether is not realistic.

“Everything was supposed to be fat-free in the ‘90s, but we don’t want to eliminate fat,” says Kinstlinger. Once again, eating healthy fats should be the focus — Dressel names tuna and salmon as healthy fats.

In addition, Kinstlinger states that she would not recommend that a person with diabetes stop eating bananas; instead, they should eat them in moderation. Kinstlinger educates clients with Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes about heart-healthy meal options and offers guidance to people with congestive heart failure, renal disease, and more.

However, the path towards a stronger heart is not achievable by merely heart-healthy nutrition alone.

Kinstlinger and Dressel say that stress and sleep management are factors that people often overlook. Then, of course, exercising is a well-known activity that leads to a stronger heart. Kinstlinger urges the importance of knowing your target heart rate when working out.

To calculate your target heart rate, subtract your age from 220. Your target heart rate should be between 60-85% of this result.

For example, for a 50-year-old:

  • 220-50 = 170
  • 170 x 60% to 85% = 102 bpm to 144.5 bpm

One main point to take away, according to Kinstlinger, is that everyone should have a well-rounded approach to bettering their health and be in the right mindset to change their lifestyle.

It is also important to note that diabetes and cardiovascular issues are linked. Adults with diabetes are more likely to be at risk of heart disease.

The Diabetes Nutrition Center at Northwest Hospital, in conjunction with the diabetes centers at Sinai and Carroll hospitals, sponsors the LifeBridge Health Diabetes Support Group. The free Zoom meetings  start at 6 p.m. on the following Thursdays:

  • February 10, 2022
  • March 10, 2022
  • April 7, 2022
  • May 12, 2022

Specialists discuss several topics such as nutrition, monitoring glucose levels, using insulin pens, and more. The Center offers both individual and group appointments for diabetes and nutrition.

On Feb. 10, cardiologist Athol Morgan from Grace Medical Center will discuss Diabetes and the Heart. For anyone interested in attending this meeting, the Zoom login is as follows:

  • Meeting ID: 551 427 6168
  • Passcode: health

For anyone seeking an appointment, call 410-601-5458.

For more tips and to learn more about #StrongerHearts, visit:

Editor’s note: This guest post was provided by LifeBridge Health, a Life is Why sponsor.