Heart Healthy Cooking Series Helps Geneva Man Get Back on Track Following a Heart Attack

Northwestern Medicine
Cardiology February 13, 2020
Last summer, Geneva resident Jeff Martin, age 52, finished his regular exercise routine and was getting ready for work when something didn’t feel right. He woke up his son, who was fortunately home from college, and that’s the last thing he remembers. Martin collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. Under the guidance of a 9-1-1 operator, Martin’s son performed life-saving CPR.

Martin was rushed to Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital where cardiologists discovered a blockage in a major artery. To reduce damage to the brain, Martin’s body temperature was lowered using therapeutic hypothermia until an angioplasty and stent placement could fully restore blood flow to his heart. A week later, he was cautiously back on his feet in cardiac rehabilitation and determined to make a full recovery.

The heart attack was a shock for Martin, who has no family history of heart disease and is otherwise very healthy. Several years ago, Martin and his wife Julie made a conscious effort to eat heathier and work out. However, a meeting with a dietitian following his heart attack opened his eyes to some additional dietary changes he needed to make.

“There are so many diet fads out there it’s hard to know what to eat,” said Jeff Martin. “Just one session with the dietitian was overwhelming and I knew I needed more information.”

Jeff and Julie enrolled in a new “Heart Healthy Cooking” program at the Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital Community Kitchen. The six-week course is led by Dr. Nauman Mushtaq, an interventional cardiologist with the Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, and Audra Wilson, a registered dietitian with the Metabolic Health and Surgical Weight Loss Center at Delnor Hospital.

Each session includes both education and hands-on cooking demonstration – and tastings - for a truly interactive experience.

“Diet has a profound impact on health,” said Dr. Mushtaq. “Lifestyle changes, including healthy eating and exercise, are vital to preventing cardiovascular disease and sustaining a healthy heart after a medical intervention.”

The course covers nutrition basics like label reading and portion sizes, as well as incorporating healthy fats, cooking with less sodium, healthy substitutions, and cooking meals that fit into the Mediterranean Diet as well as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet.

“The Mediterranean diet especially focuses on the enjoyment of food. The goal of our program is to show our participants how to enjoy and prepare foods that are heart-healthy as well as delicious,” said Wilson. “For example, it can take taste buds several weeks to adjust to lower sodium so we focus quite a bit on adding fresh herbs and spices to make healthy dishes more flavorful without adding salt.”

For Jeff and Julie, the hands-on component, and the camaraderie with other class members made every class fun, while also helping them develop new healthy habits.

“By preparing the meals ourselves, it’s easier to understand how to adjust our everyday cooking to stay focused on heart health,” said Julie. “And the food is really good.”

Jeff plans to reclaim his spot operating the barbecue donning his new Northwestern Medicine apron, but now fish and vegetables will replace the red meat. And for dessert, grilled stone fruit with whipped ricotta.

The Delnor Community Kitchen offers over 130 cooking classes per year for adults, children and children with disabilities. These hands-on classes are led by registered dietitians. For more information or to register for an upcoming course, call 630.933.4234.
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