Taking Your Recovery Seriously

Almost everyone I talk to has a personal experience relating to heart issues – either they themselves – or someone they know has experience with  heart attack or stroke, open heart or by-pass surgery or stents etc. Most are following the expert’s recommendations and making changes to their diet and ways of life, but every now and again, I hear someone tell me a story about someone that does not. These individuals don’t make an effort to lose weight, they continue to make poor food choices including poor quality foods and/or consuming large quantities of alcohol. Maybe they don’t know how to change, maybe they don’t have the support network, I’m not sure of the answers (I will share if/when I do have a better explanation  – or perhaps you’d like to comment?)

I acknowledge that I am not a medical professional, nor am I an expert in the field, but truly it doesn’t take an expert to realize that you need to follow the advice your health care professionals are giving you. Their recommendations are not to be ignored.

If you take away one thing from this blog, I strongly urge you to listen to the professional’s advice and make the recommended changes to your diet, take your medications, incorporate physical fitness into your life, follow through with the Cardiac Rehabilitation programs offered at your hospital, keep your meetings with the dietician or nutritionist. If these programs and services are offered to you, like they are here in the Vancouver area – please take advantage of these opportunities.

If you do not want a repeat “performance” you must make the changes.  There’s an old saying “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”. Not making changes  will most likely bring you right back to having heart trouble again. For you or your loved ones, I’m sure you don’t want to go through all that pain again. Your future depends on it.

Startup Stock Photos

Procedure Preparation -Food ideas

Last week J had to undergo a procedure at the hospital that required a clear liquid diet only for 24 hours. The instructions allowed bouillon or broth, jello and  drinks as long as there was no red or purple colouring. For many people this might not be too difficult but if you’re  on a sugar and salt restricted diet, this can be more difficult.

For example, beverages – almost all the clear juices on the grocery shelves had too much sugar, so they were off the list.


Next I tried the liquid or powder drink flavouring. Many of the Crystal Light flavours had raspberry mixed in so we were left with only Lemon/Lime. Brands such as Tang or Mio also either had the restricted colours or too much sugar, althoughI did find a nice Mango Peach that was good.  Also keep in mind you (or your “patient”) might not need to drink too many glasses, so depending on your daily intake, this might not be a problem if you only have a glass or two.

The Jello products were also a disappointment because I could only find Orange and Lemon in the Sugar Free versions. But they were helpful to make in advance before and after the procedure.

Bouillon/Broth – Campbell’s is now making a fairly good “no salt added’ broth. The Vegetable broth has only 20mg of Sodium and 45mg of Potassium for 2/3 cup of broth which is fairly good for commercially made broth.  I opted to make my own chicken broth.

Chicken Broth Recipe

A couple of days prior I placed two whole chickens in my pressure cooker along with 3 cups of liquid (you can use water, or a low sodium/low potassium broth). Place the pressure cooker on the high heat until the pressure builds and then reduce the heat to medium high to keep the steam going. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

According to the manufacturer’s instructions, when safe to do so, open the pressure cooker and use an instant read thermometer to check for doneness. Once the chicken is done separate the whole birds from the broth and place on a platter to cool down.

At this point I like to transfer the liquid to my stock pot because it has a thicker base than my pressure cooker and therefore is less likely to burn ingredients onto the bottom.

I add spices such  as: bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme, oregano and slowly bring to a low simmer. If desired, you can also add vegetable to your broth, such as celery, carrots, onions chopped into small-medium sized pieces.

In the mean time I separate the meat from the bones, adding the bones to the broth and once all the bones are in the broth, I place on a low simmer for 4 hours. Strain the broth to remove the bones and the vegetables and discard to your food recycling.

Let the broth cool and transfer to a container for your fridge.

The following day, you can degrease the broth by removing the hardened layer of fat from the broth. This can then be consumed following the instructions of the medical procedure.

You can later use the remaining broth as you normally would – maybe even adding back your cooked chicken for a chicken noodle soup, or other dishes.


Reading Food Labels (the “Coles Notes” version)

For the Eight Mystery of the World, we add ….. FOOD LABELS!!!

Food labels are difficult to decipher, even the nutritionists and dieticians comment about the variances between them and how tough they can be to decipher. What does it all mean?

Here’s a few quick comments, but I’ve also included some links to articles written by the professionals for you read as well.

SERVING SIZE The first thing you need to pay attention to is serving size. Some items have very small serving sizes – for example “three crackers”. If the serving size is small, and depending on what is broken down on the label, you may want to by-pass the product all together as you’ll may have a tough time sticking to the serving size and end up with too much fat or salt etc.

SALT FREE/SODIUM FREE – be cautious of foods that are labeled as sodium free, often they make up the flavour (or preservative properties) of the sodium by using POTASSIUM instead. For many heart patients, a little potassium might not be so bad. In fact, some of you may have had your dietician recommend you eat more bananas for the potassium. But if you have kidney issues along with your heart issues, you will need to be very cautious of added potassium in these items.

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Organizing & The Healthy Heart Toolbox

While J was in the hospital, we started a notebook to keep track of all the important information and instructions we were given by each nurse, doctor, care-person and specialist. Not just for his heart condition but also managing his diabetes and health in general. We used his  notebook to not only track his blood pressure and his heart rate (for our curiosity) , but also helped us remember the names of the people that came to see him. There were SO MANY different people! Plus medication names and dosages and what the medications did or why he was given a particular medication at a particular time. It was all very overwhelming.

When he was discharged from the hospital he was given handfuls of papers  – all sorts of  new information, even a DVD. Some of the paperwork explained the steps he needed to take – booklets and programs and some paperwork related to the medications he needed. There was a lot of “stuff” that he now needed to manage and being organized is extremely important – now more than ever in order to successful manage the recovery. When we got home we put everything into a plastic ‘sleeve’, to keep everything together and kept the file on his nightstand for easy access. A year later, we are still going through the file to refer to the information in it.

There are many different styles that you can find in the office supply stores or office supply sections of the major big box stores. Here’s a sample of the folder:



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Lunch Idea – Chicken Sandwiches

If you are committed to making changes so you don’t have another heart attack soon – it’s hard starting all over, learning which foods you can eat, what to buy, what to cook. Here’s a lunch idea, building on yesterday’s pre-cut veggies.

I buy the ‘family pack’ or ‘economy pack’ of boneless skinless chicken breast – there are usually about 8 in a package. I re-package them in groups of 2 in put them in the freezer for future meals, and faster thawing. Then I cook 2 or 3 – a couple for dinner the night before and the remaining for lunches and salads the next day (or two).

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