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Eat Better & Live Longer: Improve Your Heart Health in Just 8 Weeks

From the Show: Staying Well
Summary: Heart disease is the number-one killer for both men and women but can be highly preventable.
Air Date: 2/23/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: James Beckerman, MD
James beckermanDr. James Beckerman is a cardiologist and medical director of the Center for Prevention and Wellness with the Providence Heart and Vascular Institute in Portland, Oregon. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Medical School and completed his medical training at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Stanford University.

Dr. Beckerman is the former chair of the Oregon Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and is the team cardiologist for the Portland Timbers Major League Soccer team.

In 2011, he published his first book, The Flex Diet, which gives readers 200 tools to design their own approach to wellness, weight loss, and heart health, and he just released his second book, Heart to Start, an "exercise prescription in a book," designed to motivate patients and physicians alike to be more active.
  • Book Title: Heart to Start: The Eight-Week Exercise Prescription to Live Longer, Beat Heart Disease, and Run Your Best Race
Eat Better & Live Longer: Improve Your Heart Health in Just 8 Weeks
Even with the progression of understanding heart disease, it's still the number-one killer among men and women.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. That's one in every four deaths.

The good news is, heart disease can be prevented. Depending on whether your doctor has encouraged new and healthy behaviors, or if you have a known history of heart disease in your family, you might be able to turn your life around in just eight weeks.

How can you improve your heart health in such little time?

You can make a HUGE difference in just a short period of time, and it all starts with getting just a little more active. Recently, studies have shown the dangers of sitting too long and how it can damage your health as much as smoking.

However, by getting up and walking frequently, you can reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol, boost weight loss, reduce your risk of cancer, and optimize your mental health.

Another way you can improve your heart health is through dietary changes. For years, doctors plagued cholesterol as the number one contributor to heart disease. Now, doctors are suggesting cholesterol isn't so bad after all. Staying away from processed foods that are high in sugar and fat, however, is a must for reducing your risk of heart disease.

What else can you do to improve your health and live longer?

James Beckerman, MD, joins host Melanie Cole, MS, to discuss the dangerous risks associated with heart disease, as well as how you can improve your heart health in just eight weeks.

RadioMD Presents:Staying Well | Original Air Date: February 23, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS

It’s all about your health, your wellness. RadioMD. Get healthier. Get fit. Eat better. Have a richer quality of life. Health On The Go. Staying well with Melanie Cole, MS.

MELANIE: Can you eat better, live longer and improve your heart health in just 8 weeks? Well, yes says my guest Dr. James Beckerman. He’s a cardiologist with the Providence Heart and Vascular Institute in Portland, Oregon.

Welcome to the show, Dr. Beckerman. Welcome back to the show, I should say.

Dr. BECKERMAN: Thank you so much.

MELANIE: So, tell us about your book The Heart to Start: The 8-week Exercise Prescription to Live Longer, Beat Disease, Run Your Best Race. What does all that mean for people who are worried about heart disease?

Dr. BECKERMAN: What it all means is that the good news that we can make a huge difference in a relatively short amount of time if we start creating some new habits. So, the goal of this books is to try to motivate people to get out there, get busy and start changing their lives.

MELANIE: So, can you make a difference in 8 weeks? If you’re somebody that has been a smoker or you’re overweight or you’ve never exercised, you live a sedentary lifestyle, how can this change in just 8 weeks?

Dr. BECKERMAN: It all starts with a walk because before you can run, you’ve got to walk and what we’ve found is that exercise is an amazing portal to behavior change meaning that if we can get people to be a little bit more active, we sort of create something that I like to call a “health halo” in which we can impact other areas of their lives. So, if you want to change your diet. If you want to quit smoking, if you want to reduce stress, all these things we talk about to lower our risk of heart disease, it all starts with getting a little bit more active because once we do that, it actually becomes a lot easier to make behavior change in other areas in the long term.

MELANIE: So, Dr. Beckerman, I’m an exercise physiologist and as I know that exercise makes this huge difference, but I also know that changing habits is very, very difficult especially even things like stress.


MELANIE: You know, if this is a part of your life, you’re worried about your job, you’re worried about your children, how can exercise and getting more active help you to beat out some of those feelings you have that can build up your cortisol levels and contribute to heart disease?

Dr. BECKERMAN: Yes. Well, I think it’s important to realize that there are some things in our lives that we have less control over, right? I mean, you have very little control over your in-laws. Well, I guess there’s something you can do about that, but that’s a bigger decision.


Dr. BECKERMAN: We have little control over our families. We have little control over our workplaces in some situations, but what we do have some control over is how we manage those stressors in our lives. It turns out that when people recognize certain areas of their lives in which they do have control, and I’m really talking about their activity level, how much time they spend in the chair, how much time they spend walking or doing other forms of physical activity, something starts to change. There is data to suggest that people who become more active are able to manage stress and difficult situations in other areas of their lives. There’s this concept out there called “self-efficacy” and it’s the idea that if you prove to yourself that you can follow through with a positive change in one area of your life, it tends to overflow into other areas, too. So, I think it’s important to be realistic that starting an exercise program is not going to make your boss easier work to with, but it might change the way that you approach those more challenging situations in the rest of your life.

MELANIE: Dr. Jordon Metzel said with me, “Sitting is the new smoking,” so I hear you with that sitting too much in your day, but what about changes in heart healthy diet? Tell us about some of those changes. We don’t have a lot of time in the segment, but also, what does your 8-week plan consist of?

Dr. BECKERMAN: Sure. So, as far as a hearth healthy diet, I think that we’ve made it seem a little bit too complicated. You know? I was very excited, actually, to hear that the new dietary guidelines are actually removing one of the previous challenges that folks had which was regarding the amount of cholesterol, dietary cholesterol, in their diet. Because, as it turns out, the dietary cholesterol isn’t as impactful as we once though it was on your overall body’s cholesterol profile and what was happening was, folks were eating less cholesterol and more sugar, unfortunately. Eating those higher amounts of carbohydrates probably did not contribute to our heart health in any positive way and, most likely, made it worse. So, I think that really focusing on unprocessed foods, lower sugar foods, more plants, that’s the way to go. Probably eating less food for the most of us. As far as the 8-week program in the book, I’m really focusing on two things: cardiorespiratory fitness in terms of an 8-week walking program that’s customized to the individual’s level of activity going into it and also a strength program because we can’t forget that strength, flexibility and balance are so important in folks who are trying to just have a better quality of life because those are the things that going o help you be able to carry your grocery bags, reach something on a top shelf, play with your kids on the floor, etc.

MELANIE: So, how does the book, Dr. Beckerman, help you individualize, like you mentioned, with a walking program? Is there a website that listeners can go to that they’re involved or engaged? How does it work?

Dr. BECKERMAN: Absolutely. They can go to or to our Facebook page, it’s to get started and the cool thing that the book does is it helps people with fitness self-assessments that they can do in the privacy of their own home and without any equipment. By doing those assessments, they’re going to be able to find their own starting line and this program is customizable. So, five different levels of activity going into it. So, some of us are more active. Some of us are less so, but all of us should have access to a quality exercise prescription that will help you achieve further goals.

MELANIE: How do you know when you’re ready to jump up to the next level if you’ve started a walking program and you’re trying to eat healthy which may include eggs now that cholesterol is not as important, maybe inflammation a little more important than it was? How do you gradually progress? What’s your best advice to the listeners about upping that game a little if they’ve started by walking around the block?

Dr. BECKERMAN: That’s right. Well, I think once you get through the initial exercise prescription, it’s time to start creating new goals and one of my personal passions is training people to walk or run 5K races because it’s a great distance. It’s a great amount of time for exercise and for folks who are really looking for a community experience where people are supporting you and looking for you to run your best race, whatever form it might be, I really do recommend signing up for events because they’re wonderful social and community events that get you involved. You can raise money for causes you care about. You can do them with friends or family and it keeps that momentum going because if we really want people to be heart healthy, it’s not just about Heart Month in February, it’s about the whole year and in order to do that, you’ve got to set concrete goals that you can accomplish with people you care about.

MELANIE: So, Dr. Beckerman, in the last minute here, tell people where they can find Heart To Start: The 8-week Exercise Prescription to Live Longer, Beat Heart Disease and Run Your Best Race and give them one last bit of best advice.

Dr. BECKERMAN: Yes. Well, you can join us at or at and my advice to everybody is that you’ve got to find your starting line. That’s the key thing. You have to find that place that makes sense for you and where exercise can be part of your life. It’s not about what it can do for other people. It’s about what it can do for you.

MELANIE: That’s great advice, great information. The book is Heart to Start and the website that you can go to is Go on or and join the club. Get started. Find your level. Find where it is that you begin and take those baby steps, but take those steps.

You heard it from Dr. James Beckerman, noted cardiologist and, of course, you heard it right here on RadioMD.

If you missed any of the great programs, you can listen any time on demand or on the go at Scroll around and learn something with us.

This is Melanie Cole for RadioMD.

Stay well.