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How cardiologists look after their own hearts

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Here are the heart health habits cardiologists follow to prevent heart problems for life.

“I use a meal delivery service”

“Good nutrition is essential to heart health. Unfortunately I often miss meals and instead ending up grabbing junk food during the work day. A meal delivery service is totally worth it for me as it helps guarantee that I will have healthy meals and snacks. Another great option is to prep your meals for the week in advance so you can just grab and go.” – Nicole Weinberg, MD, cardiologist

“I keep a gratitude journal”

“Studies have recently shown that expressing gratitude may have a significant positive impact on heart health. One study, for example, showed the volunteers who were asked to focus on feelings of deep appreciation had increased heart rate variability, which is a marker that predicts decreased death from cardiac disease. Another study found that patients who kept a gratitude journal for two months had lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers that could lead to cardiovascular disease. Giving thanks can improve subjective wellbeing and overall health. It’s become clear to me that gratitude isn’t just good for the soul, it’s good for the body, too.” – Nicole Van Groningen, MD, internal medicine physician

“I do CrossFit”

“I am a strong believer in the mind-body connection and have seen first-hand how exercise not only increases your overall health and energy levels but is also the perfect stress buster. Exercise blunts the ‘cortisol spike,’ the rush of stress hormones that has been linked to increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. Personally CrossFit is my favourite but I also practice yoga as well.” – Adam Splaver, MD, cardiologist

“I meditate”

“Each day I engage in activities that alleviate stress and make me laugh. Negative thoughts and feelings of sadness can be detrimental to the heart. Stress can cause catecholamine release that can lead to heart failure and heart attacks. I have found a great sense of comfort in 20 minutes of meditation daily. It gives me the reset I need when pressure is rising. Apps can provide guided meditation and now many workplaces offer daily group sessions.” – Archana Saxena, MD, cardiologist

“I take the stairs”

“It is no surprise that the number of heart attacks greatly increased after the introduction of the elevator. Exercise, even little bits throughout the day, are so important to heart health. So I take the stairs at every opportunity.” – Richard Wright, MD, cardiologist

“I weigh myself every day”

“Almost all advice for reducing your cardiovascular risk includes recommendations for diet, weight reduction, exercise programs and stress reduction. But I’ve found that patients often don’t internalise these recommendations – because they fail to incorporate them into their daily routine. One simple thing I do to make sure I’m at a lean weight is to set a target weight and then weigh myself daily to make sure I’m maintaining it.” – Steven Tabak, MD, FACC

“I don’t eat when I’m not hungry”

“Don’t eat when you aren’t hungry. It sounds too simple but many people eat for other reasons like boredom or stress. Instead, become a ‘grazer.’ It’s better to nibble, and every once in a while gorge oneself on a big meal, rather than the old advice to eat three meals a day. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your heart.” – Richard Wright, MD

“I’m always finding something to laugh about”

“Seeing the humour in everyday situations helps me maintain perspective and allows me to laugh as often and frequently as I can. Laughing about things that are not in your control not only decreases the stress, but dilates the arteries and keeps blood pressure down.”  – Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, cardiologist

“I have lots of sex”

“Sex is like interval exercise, which is very good for the heart. One easy and fun way to help your heart is to have more sex!” – Richard Wright, MD

“I do yoga”

“We know that high levels of stress is bad for your heart. Not only can severe stress directly harm your heart, but high levels of anxiety lead to other behaviours that are bad for your heart like smoking, alcohol use and eating comfort foods like cookies and pizza. I have started practicing stress reduction through yoga, it helps me unwind, find balance and escape for a short time every day.” – Jennifer Haythe, MD

“I schedule exercise”

“I often hear my patients say they don’t have time to exercise or say they had no idea that they had gained weight. This is why I schedule my exercise sessions (I do aerobic exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week) just like I would schedule a business meeting or other event.” – Steven Tabak, MD

 

“I eat a Mediterranean diet”

“Instead of grabbing chips when I get home hungry at the end of the day, I slice up half an avocado and drizzle on some olive oil. Delicious and filling, this quick snack is part of a Mediterranean diet, which has been scientifically proven to be heart healthy.” – Glenn Rich, MD, endocrinologist and obesity specialist

 

“I take a good multivitamin”

“As a physician and vitamin expert one thing I do to help with my heart health is take a personalised multivitamin. A 2015 study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that women who took a multivitamin for more than three years significantly reduced their risk of heart disease and death from heart disease. Even though I try to eat a well-balanced Mediterranean diet I know there are certain nutrients on which I fall short so I take a multivitamin tailored to my specific needs based on diet, lifestyle and health concerns.” – Arielle Levitan, MD, co-founder Vous Vitamin and author of The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear the Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health

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