Reduce Your Heart Age with Simple Changes


Weight down. Cholesterol levels down. Cardiac ages improved by more than a decade.

Those are the health benefits Hugh and Bev Dayton credit to St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s “Take Time for Your Heart Class.”

It’s not about radical changes, said Hugh. “Just making minor adjustments in your diet and exercise program that you can live with long-term, rather than radical changes you can’t live with. That’s what makes the difference,” he said.

Bev said at the beginning of the class, her cardiac age was “75 plus. At the end of the class, it was 53. And I’m 65.” Cardiac age, based on six key factors including blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index, estimates the risk of developing heart disease in the next 10 years.

Hugh’s cardiac age dropped from 74 to 63 over the 10-week course, and he lost more than 10 pounds.

Simple changes add up to big differences

Keeping a food journal helped both make simple changes which added up to big differences. Bev will use just half a roll when she has a burger or wrap a piece of ham around cheese. “I really don’t miss the bread,” she said. And they’ve switched to low-sodium ham.

“For me, I was eating less calories than I should have been,” she said, and that was slowing down her metabolism. “For my husband,” she added “” serving size was a big deal. “For example, Hugh would have a can of soup for lunch; however, one can of soup is 2 ½ servings, which resulted in over 2,200 milligrams (mg) of sodium; more than a day’s allowance.”

Salt was a lightning rod for Hugh. “The amount of sodium in processed food is eye-opening. I was probably consuming 4,000 mg a day and now I limit it to about 1,500 as a result of the program,” said Hugh. Chicken pot pie at one of his regular restaurants has 2,400 mg of sodium, he learned. So, “I just stopped eating those things.”

“I lowered my cholesterol by just watching what I was eating and I continued to lose weight, over 20 pounds,” said Hugh. “I learned about carbohydrates ” I didn’t cut anything out totally, I just reduced what I was eating, portion wise, and stopped eating ice cream after dinner.”

And he’s now joined Bev in reading food labels. When they eat out, they check ingredients and sodium levels on a fitness app.

“When we’re out and we see something that is going to take a whole day’s allocation of carbohydrates or calories or salt, we choose something else or if we choose it, the rest of the day we might be more restrictive of what we eat,” said Hugh.

Seek peer support

“The class really increased our knowledge of what we were really eating,” said Hugh. Bev added: “”another great benefit was ‘peer support’ by sharing experiences with others and learning what worked for them.”

“Joyce was great,” Bev said of St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute Nurse Navigator Joyce Jacobs, who teaches the course based on the book, “Mayo Clinic Healthy Heart for Life!”

“She was a wonderful instructor, very patient. She would let you ask questions; if she didn’t have the answer, she would get the answer for you. She was outstanding.”

Bev, who is able to control her diabetes without insulin, has also taken classes at the St. Elizabeth Regional Diabetes Center. Her endocrinologist Dr. Linda Hermiller is “thrilled” that Bev had such a positive experience with the heart health class because specific tips allow patients to take specific steps.

“Any opportunity we have to touch a patient, to have contact with them and to get them to be more healthy is key. And if it’s through the cardiovascular center project or if it’s through the weight management center, or if it’s through our center, if we’re all on the same page with the same goal, all those different touches with a patient can get them going in the right direction,” said Dr. Hermiller.

Bev and Hugh take a “one-for-all and all-for-one approach” to their health. Hugh “went to support me because we have heart disease on my side of the family, but he really did learn some things that helped him as well,” said Bev.

Hugh adds that he’s switched from salted nuts to lightly salted or no salt. But one thing he won’t change: “You have to have salt on corn on the cob.”

Bev commented: “There’s always room for improvement and we’re still working toward a healthy future, but this class was a great investment of our time and we recommend it to our family and friends.”

Click below to learn more about  “Take Time for Your Heart.”


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