HELENA- For Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton the importance of heart health is front and center as part of his recovery following a heart attack in December.

Sheriff Dutton’s cardiac rehab includes a lot of working out.

“The more you exercise, the more your blood pressure goes down, so this really does help,” says Sheriff Dutton.

Dutton’s rehab includes a steady increase in aerobic activity. Doctors say increasing and prolonging aerobic exercise increases the benefit.

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“Getting more prolonged aerobic exercise is actually more helpful. So they don’t have to really hammer it in the gym, but we want them to slowly build up to where they’re able to go for a longer period of time,” says St. Peter’s Health Cardiologist Dr. Robert Phillips.

Experts say time exercising is more important than mileage or simply increasing the patient’s heart rate.

“Remarkable that just walking provides most of the cardiac benefit as far as reducing event rates,” adds Dr. Phillips.

Sheriff Dutton adds, “Cardiac muscle is different than skeletal muscle. And it takes a little longer for that to heal.”

Diet is another key component to Sheriff Dutton’s recovery. His died now includes more vegetables, fresh fruit, and lean meats.

Dr. Phillips says, “You want to avoid simple carbohydrates like white potatoes, white rice, white sugar.” He adds that cardiac rehab patients have to avoid foods that cause peaks in sugar in the body. Foods that cause insulin to peak can cause vascular inflation and heart attacks.

“You want to avoid simple carbohydrates like white potatoes, white rice, white sugar,” says Dr. Phillips.

A heart-healthy diet also means practicing portion control.

Dr. Phillips says, “If you’re eating a large amount, you’re obviously going to have a more prolonged elevated blood sugar. And so having a smaller meal is much better.”

Sheriff Dutton also wants to remind people to pay attention to their own health and not ignore the warning signs of a heart attack or stroke.

“If you think you’re having one, call 9-1-1 right away. It’s not admitting defeat to go and have yourself checked out,” says Sheriff Dutton.


February is American Heart Month. Visit the websites below for helpful heart health tips.