Medical Minute 5-17: Test Yourself for a Healthy Heart

By: Ramin Khalili Email
By: Ramin Khalili Email

Joe Piscatella knows a thing or two about staying healthy. 33 years ago, this now-best-selling author thought his life was over.

"One day I got a little pulling sensation on my chest when I was playing tennis and then I went back and played again and got another pulling sensation," said Joe Piscatella Heart Bypass Patient.

Two days after a doctor's visit -- he was getting open-heart bypass surgery. At just 32 years old, Joe had a 95% blockage of his coronary arteries.

"You reach what's called a teachable moment and all of sudden you develop a perspective about … is this thing really the end of the world?"

Joe made sure it wasn't -- by focusing on healthy eating and exercise. He's now one of the world's longest-living bypass survivors. So what do you know about what you're eating? For instance - is two-percent milk really just two-percent fat?

"The 2% on the carton tells you what fat weighs in the carton. It doesn't tell you how many grams of fat."

Two percent milk is actually 5 grams of fat per 8 ounces. Fat-free milk is better.

The fruit in your yogurt … that's one daily fruit serving, right?

"When you get to the fruit flavored ones where the fruit is down at the bottom, it's more like jam, so it's not unusual to have 5 or more teaspoons of sugar."

More like a serving of sugar. Check the label: 4 grams of sugar equals one teaspoon of sugar. Finally - what about research that says strawberries are good for your heart?

"Strawberries and blueberries are two of the best things that you can have either by themselves or on cereal because they are tremendous antioxidants that are cardio protective."

Strawberries help reduce hardening of the arteries … while blueberries are packed with antioxidants. That knowledge - and more - helped Joe get back to what he does best: Living.

"What I do is when I get up in the morning I make a decision that day that I'm here and that I'm going to do the best for my health just for this one day."

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500,


BACKGROUND: Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, and on average, claims the life of one person every 35 seconds. Although many presume it to be more commonly associated with men, heart disease is actually the number one cause of disability and death in American women. The most common form of heart disease is known as coronary artery disease, and it occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries. The arteries will narrow over time, and the heart will be unable to get enough blood. Coronary artery disease can cause angina, arrhythmia, heart failure, and heart attack. (SOURCE:

PROCEED WITH CAUTION: Checking the labels, ingredients, and nutritional value of processed foods and beverages is of the utmost importance. When considering a healthy diet for your heart, remember to eat foods low in saturated fats, and low in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This type of “bad” cholesterol builds up in the arteries, causing them to narrow over time. Foods that should be limited, if not avoided are:

• Egg yolks
• Butter and margarine
• Whole and 2% milk
• Fried foods
• Bacon, sausage, and organ meats (like liver)
• Cheesecake, pastries, doughnuts, ice cream, and other “junk” foods.

HEART HEALTHY ALTERNATIVES: Listed are some healthy alternatives to consider when cooking, or preparing your meals:

• Frozen fruit and vegetables: Frozen fruit and vegetables are usually picked and frozen at their peak ripeness, which is the time when they are most nutrient packed. Eating frozen fruits and veggies are more economical, and some would argue that it’s healthier. Raw or fresh fruits and vegetables are good to consume, but it may come with accompanying risks. Over-ripeness is an issue, and research has shown people who only consume raw fruits and vegetables have low levels of lycopene: an antioxidant known to lower risks of cancer and heart disease.

• Coconut oil: Unlike most other oils, coconut oil has fewer calories, it is easily converted into energy, aids in weight loss, and it doesn’t accumulate in the arteries. The health benefits of using coconut extend far beyond a healthy heart; the body as a whole will benefit from this miracle oil

• Almond milk: For those who may be lactose intolerant, or just want to stop drinking milk for personal reasons, almond milk is an excellent alternative. In a plain serving of almond milk, there are more nutrients, no cholesterol, and a low amount of sodium when compared to cow’s milk. Almonds are among the healthiest nuts, and they are usually expensive, so the actual amount of almonds used in the milk is minimal; however, you can make your own almond milk.

For More Information, Contact:
Joseph Piscatella
Institute For Fitness and Health

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