Are You Looking to Get Your Heart and Diet into Shape for Summer Swim Season?

Apple HeartIf so, Emory Women’s Heart Center nurse practitioner, Christine Nell – Dybdahl NP-C, MPH, MSN, has some recommendations to help you shape up your heart for the summer and for life. Chris recommends patients follow the 2011 Heart Disease Prevention Guidelines for Women and follow a Mediterranean style heart healthy lifestyle habits. Chris notes that many of her female clients are unaware of the specific dietary intake recommendations for women.

Suggestions based on a 2000 calorie diet per day.

  • Load up on Fruits and vegetables!
  • Fruits and vegetables should visually take up half of your plate.
  • You should aim for at least 4 ½ cups a day of nonstarchy, fruits and vegetables.
  • When possible, make the veggie to fruit ratio be greater than two to one.
  • Examples of serving size are:

½ cup juice
1 small fruit
¼ cup dried no sugar added fruit
1 cup raw veggie
½ cup cooked veggie

Make sure to consume foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids!

  • We recommend women should consume (preferably fatty fish), at least two times a week.
  • Daily average intake of omega 3’s should be approximately 1,000 mg.
  • Examples of serving size is:

A single serving of fish is 3 ½ ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards.

  • One serving of salmon has between 1,000 to 1,800mg of omega 3 fatty acids.

Nuts, legumes, and seeds should be eaten at least four times a week.

  • Examples of servings size:

1 ½ ounces nuts (A combo of walnuts and almonds is great)
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
½ cup legumes or beans
½ ounce of seeds

Eat your Fiber!

  • Fiber should be around 30 grams per day.
  • Consumer soluble fibers to help with lowering blood cholesterol.
  • Example:

One cup of cooked winter squash or pinto beans equals 4 grams of soluble fiber.

Don’t forget your whole grains!

  • Avoid refined grain products.
  • Consume approximately 3 whole grain servings per day.
  • Examples:

Two slices of whole wheat bread equals 2 grams of soluble fiber.
½ cup of brown rice

Limit sugar, alcohol, sodium, fat, and cholesterol intake.

  • Added sugars should be limited to six teaspoons or 24 grams per day.
  • Limit alcohol to no more than one serving per day.
  • Examples:

4 ounces of wine
12 ounce beer
1.5 ounce of 80-proof spirits

  • Limit sodium to fewer than 1,500mg daily.

Remember that a teaspoon is equal to about 2400mg/day.
Did you know that most of the sodium consumed in the American diet comes from breads?

  • Limit saturated fat to fewer than 7% of your total energy intake.

This is estimated to be less than 15 grams per day.
This should be lowered to 5% if you have high blood cholesterol.

  • Limit cholesterol intake to under 150mg/day.

The average egg yolk has about 180mg of cholesterol.

  • Avoid trans-fatty acids.

Avoid any foods that have the ingredient “hydrogenated”.

Make time during the busy summer season to exercise! In addition to these heart healthy dietary recommendations, be sure to accumulate 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This can be accomplished in at least 10 minute increments such as with brisk walking during a break at work.

For weight loss, this recommendation should be increased to 60-90 minutes per day. Additionally, for weight loss, many women should consider reducing their calorie intake to about 1,200-1,500 calories per day. It is also helpful to do at least 2 days per week of muscle strengthening activities.

Take the heart disease risk assessment quiz to determine if you are at risk for heart disease!

To get a full assessment of your heart health, schedule your heart screening today:

Heart Disease Screening


  • Mosca, et al. AHA Guidelines for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Women. JACC 2011:57; 1404-1423.

About the Emory Women’s Heart Center

Emory Women’s Heart Center is a unique program dedicated to screening, preventing and treating heart disease in women. The Center, led by nationally renowned cardiologist Gina Lundberg, MD provides comprehensive cardiac risk assessment and screenings for patients at risk for heart disease as well as full range of treatment options for women already diagnosed with heart disease care.

Christine Nell – Dybdahl, NP – C, MPH, MSN has been a registered nurse since 1994 and a nurse practitioner since 1998. She brings to the practice over 20 years of cardiology experience. She is the clinical nurse director for Emory’s Center for Heart Disease Prevention and is active with the Emory’s Women’s Heart Program. She received her BSN from Kent State University and her dual
master degrees from Emory University in nursing (board certified family nurse practitioner) and public health (health education and promotion). Her interests include cardiovascular disease prevention, heart healthy life style changes, cholesterol abnormalities, women’s heart care, and family-involved chronic heart disease management. Chris is a member of the American College of Cardiology, Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association, and American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. She makes it a priority to connect interested patients and researchers at Emory. She is the founder and clinical leader of the Women Living with Angina Support Group. She has co-authored several journal articles and has spoken at many conferences on a wide variety of topics

Related Links

Emory Women’s Heart Center
Quiz – Are you at risk for heart disease?
Top Symptoms of Heart Attacks in Women
Eat Heart Healthy – Mediterranean Salmon Recipe via Dr. Cutchins

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