20 Tips for Heart Health
30 Jan

20 Tips for Heart Health: A Cardiologist’s Guide to Making Healthy Choices (and Bypassing Your Genes)

It’s February, time for a heart-to-heart talk.

Here’s the irony: heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease

So we should be having this conversation during the course of the year as well.

Heads up. That is part of my 2020 plan.

While the death rate from heart disease is scary, there is good news. While genetics do play a role, making healthy choices can promote longevity. Maybe bypassing your genes is a stretch, but I just loved the pun and I hope you will take heart and give these a try.

20 Tips for Heart Health:

  1. Eat something green. To age well, we must eat well. There has been a lot of evidence that heart-healthy diets help protect your brain and slow down the rate of cognitive decline.
  2. Moooo-ve and move regularly. Anything is better than nothing as long as you have the permission of your physician. While exercise is no longer optional, the type of exercise you choose is.
  3. Go for a blood pressure check, a traditional silent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. You can only control your blood pressure if you know your baseline.
  4. Get at least seven hours of sleep. Sleepdeficiency is associated with many chronic health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, stroke, obesity, and even depression.
  5. Avoid eating simple sugars like cake, cookies and candy. Processed foods such as cakes, cookies and refined sugars, including high-fructose corn syrup and all-purpose flour, all contribute to the obesity epidemic in the United States. Obesity has been closely linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and even cancer.
  6. Exercises such as mediation, breath work, yoga and tai chi are great tools to improve the function of our autonomic nervous system which is responsible for heart rate, blood pressure, digestion as well as hormonal regulation. And the health and regulatory function of our autonomic nervous system is a known predictor of overall longevity and quality of life.
  7. Limit your alcohol intake. Yes, we know there are studies promoting red wine as being good for your heart. But alcohol is empty calories and heart health can be achieved in other ways.
  8. Hold off on bad fats. While fat adds flavor and is a major source of energy, foods rich in trans-fat increases harmful cholesterol and creates inflammation which is linked to heart disease.
  9. Add good fats to your diet such as those found in avocados, coconut oil and nuts. By adding good fats to your diet, you will enjoy the benefits of taste and energy while feeling fuller longer.
  1. Take your medications as prescribed. There is no place for creativity in medication management. Always consult your physician before stopping or starting a medication.
  2. Optimize your Vitamin D. Supplements, vitamins such as Vitamin D, mindfulness, sleep, exercise and proper nutrition have all have been shown to augment the body’s natural ability to maintain balance.
  3. Ask about the benefits of fish oil. Fish oil has omega-3 which fights inflammation and may prevent heart disease and cognitive decline.
  4. Have your hormones checked. When hormones are out of balance, that machine called the body, will not operate at peak performance.
  5. Consider getting a coronary calcium score. The score is determined after a scan which detects deposits in your arteries. The presence of calcium deposits can indicate you are at risk for a heart attack. And knowing your risks may save your life.
  1. Brush your teeth and take care of your gums. Research shows a high correlation between gum disease and heart disease.
  2. Spend time outdoors. Enjoying the great outdoors, particularly while exercising, has been known to lower blood pressure and improve mood and overall oxygenation. Walking with friends who are as committed to their health and wellness as you are, adds a social benefit and promotes accountability and good habits.
  3. Join an exercise class. Exercise is an investment with excellent return on investment (ROI). It may be a long-term investment, but the results will surely pay off.
  1. Avoid sitting for long periods of time. Too much sitting and extended sitting behind a desk or on the couch can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease and even cancer. Taking regular breaks and rotating between standing and sitting can stave off the harmful effects of being sedentary.
  2. Be mindful of what you eat. Your body is a temple. Ask yourself, “Is this something I want to incorporate in my body?”
  3. Explore your inner child and be playful. Exploring new places and learning new things cause a release of endorphins which can reduce blood pressure and improve vasoreactivity.

If you slip up, get back up!

It’s ok to have our cake and eat it too. Just don’t make it a daily habit in February or any other day of the year.