Diet+Exercise = Healthy Heart

Keeping your ticker in tune is a matter of choosing the right eats and not being a couch potato

Article by Mary Ellin Arch

Photography by Photography Provided by PartnerMD

Originally published in Midlothian Lifestyle

The prescription for a healthy heart is really pretty simple: fresh food and regular exercise.

Dr. Susan Scharpf and health coach Jaime Monsen, of PartnerMD’s Midlothian office, advise patients every day on how to keep their hearts as healthy as possible.

“Diet and exercise – without question we know that’s the key to a heart-healthy lifestyle,” Dr. Scharpf says. “But there’s no one answer to which diet.”

Each health pro has her favorite go-to diet. Dr. Scharpf favors plant-based regimens such as the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, limited quantities of meat especially red meat, low sugar). Monsen advocates keto-style eating, limiting carbs to 20 grams per day.

While vastly different in their approaches to starchy foods, both diet preferences share important commonalities – their focus on fresh, whole, minimally processed and non-packaged food.

“If it flies, walks, crawls, swims, or grows, you can eat it,” Monsen says. “If it’s in a package, beware.”

A focus on whole, unprocessed foods can mean a lot of cooking, but both health pros are enthusiastic supporters of popular meal delivery services such as Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. It can also mean confusion in the grocery aisles; Monsen regularly accompanies patients to the supermarket for lessons on food selection and label reading.

Eating whole foods puts you halfway to a healthy heart; to get the rest of the way you need exercise. Dr. Scharpf says the general rule is 150 minutes of cardiovascular fitness each week, 20 minutes of resistance training twice a week, and 5 minutes of mindfulness and meditation daily.

“You just have to commit to it,” Dr. Scharpf says. “It’s as important as brushing your teeth. Even in your 80s and 90s, you can do these things.”


Garlic Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Serves: 2


  • 1 lb. shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced into noodles
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine (optional, leave out for AIP)
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. fresh chives, minced
  • 2 tbsp. cooking fat (options: olive oil, butter, avocado oil)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat some cooking fat in a skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the shrimp. Cook until pink and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes, and remove from the pan.
  4. Pour the wine and lemon juice and scrape up the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and let simmer until significantly reduced.
  5. Add the zucchini and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Return the shrimp to the pan, season to taste, and give everything a nice stir.
  1. Serve, sprinkled with fresh chives.

Protein: 54g / 69%

Carbs: 13g / 17%

Fat: 5g / 14%

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