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Heart Health Tips from Dr. Oz

Solve My Health Problem, Please!

Melissa Cochran, 44, 5'2", 129 pounds, a full-time nursing student in Chula Vista, California, and mother of two girls, 18 and 16, and a boy, 21.

"Two of my children live at home, but neither drives, so every day I'm running them in different directions. My youngest has type 1 diabetes and doesn't always take her insulin, so I'm frequently checking up on her. On top of that, both my mother and my father-in-law are in poor health and need care. I'm so anxious, and my blood pressure is dangerously high (190/128). I feel like I could have a stroke or heart attack at any time."

Dr. Oz says: One way to reduce your stress and your blood pressure is to get 30 to 60 minutes of exercise every day. Put it in your calendar, the way you would a doctor's appointment. You don't need to do it all at once. Aim for three 10-minute chunks of physical activity each day—like going for a quick stroll before each meal.

Shari Smith, 40, 5'9", 196 pounds, a Mary Kay independent senior sales director in Orlando, Florida, and mother of two boys, 12 and 9.

"I don't snack on junk, and once a week, I go for a 2-mile run. I'd love to do more, but between work and driving my boys to soccer practice almost every day, that's all that I can manage. I've lost 22 pounds since our family started eating organic about a year ago. I'm proud to say I'm finally under 200 pounds, but I'd love to be 150. I feel like I'm mostly doing the right things, so why aren't I thinner?"

Dr. Oz says: I congratulate you on the 22 pounds you've already lost. Losing 10% of your body weight is a huge accomplishment and dramatically reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease and other health issues. And while slow weight loss can be very frustrating, it does make it more likely that once you've lost the weight, you'll keep it off. One thing that might help speed up the process a bit is to take a look at your portion sizes. Most people believe they're eating right because they choose good foods, but overeating healthy items can also be a big problem. Use the suggestions below to monitor your portions:

A Serving of…

Should Look Like

Whole wheat pasta or brown rice

Half a baseball

Fish, chicken, lean red meats

Deck of cards

Raw almonds

1.5 golf balls

Sissy Graham, 45, 5'3", 261 pounds, a senior business analyst in Bloomfield, Kentucky, and mom of three girls, 24, and 13-year-old twins.

"I didn't know I had high cholesterol until four years ago, when I had a heart attack. Initially, the doctor at the hospital thought it was indigestion and sent me home. But my mom, a nurse, took me back to the ER the next day and insisted they do some lab tests. It turned out three different arteries in my heart were almost totally blocked. I was (and I still am) heavy, but because I didn't feel sick and my weight wasn't preventing me from working or keeping up with my girls, I didn't think anything was wrong. I still need help getting my cholesterol down."

Dr. Oz says: Sissy, you are not alone. The misdiagnosis of women's heart attacks is a very common problem. In your case, it was probably the combination of a high BMI and high cholesterol that led to your heart attack. Both can be improved by cutting back on the cholesterol and fat you're eating. Saturated fats in meat, full-fat dairy products, and some oils raise your total cholesterol. Trans fats found in margarine, and store-bought cookies, crackers, and cakes are particularly bad because they raise the "bad" LDL cholesterol and lower the "good" HDL cholesterol. Eating more soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. An easy way to get the recommended 10g of fiber a day is to start your morning with a bowl of oatmeal and sliced bananas.