When you’re looking for tips to protect your heart, who better to ask than a cardiologist?
In recognition of American Heart Month, Health Matters asked five NewYork-Presbyterian cardiologists to share the tips that they follow for a healthy heart. They’re easy to implement and don’t require major lifestyle changes, but even these minor adjustments can make a major difference.
Here are 10 doctor-tested tips.
Dr. Elsa-Grace Giardina, director of the Center for Women’s Health in the Division of Cardiology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Be prepared with healthy snacks.
Prepping healthy snacks like apple slices, carrots, celery, or other raw vegetables — and keeping them in the front of the refrigerator — is an easy way to avoid indulging in foods that are not healthy and interfere with your goals of maintaining normal body weight, blood sugar, lipids, or blood pressure.
Keep a food diary and be honest.
If you write down that you had a chocolate chip cookie or a brownie, you will be more likely to understand why you are having trouble losing weight or keeping your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure within normal limits.
Dr. Gary Gabelman, cardiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital and assistant clinical professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Try to follow the Mediterranean diet.
I am a pescatarian — I eat fish, vegetables, and no meat and for the most part follow the Mediterranean diet. It has all the basics of healthy eating and whole and natural foods — plus a splash of flavorful olive oil and perhaps a glass of red wine. Research shows that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease, and it’s been associated with lowering the “bad” cholesterol that’s more likely to build up deposits in your arteries. It’s a healthy way to diet and not hard to follow or maintain.
Find an exercise you enjoy.
I try to do some aerobic activity at least four times a week. For me, it is the Peloton bike or treadmill. You can join a gym and go with a partner or friend. If it’s cold out, or you don’t like gyms, you can go to the mall and walk. When parking at a store, park far away and walk more.
Multiple studies over the years have shown the benefit of physical activity in improving cardiovascular health — it helps you burn calories, thus controlling your weight; it decreases your blood pressure; it lowers your bad cholesterol (LDL) and raises your good cholesterol (HDL); and it also improves your blood sugars, helping to prevent or control diabetes.
Make a commitment to yourself and your health: Avoid a sedentary lifestyle and get up and move.
Dr. Emmanuel Moustakakis, director of the coronary care unit at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine
I love yoga for both mental and physical release. Yoga is something almost anyone can try at some level — it can start off as simple stretching.
Eat foods that are high in fiber. The staple in my diet toward heart health is fiber. I eat high-fiber cereal in the morning and high-fiber vegetables, like broccoli. Not only is it heart-healthy (and healthy for other organs, too), but it keeps you full, curbs overeating, and helps promote weight loss.
Dr. Parag Goyal, cardiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine
Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.
Physical activity is key to maintaining heart health.
Replace snack items like chips and cookies with fruits and nuts.
It’s easy to mindlessly snack on foods that lack nutritional value. Instead, satisfy your cravings with heart-healthy foods.
Dr. Kumudha Ramasubbu, director of heart failure services at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital
Go for a walk.
If you don’t exercise, a daily walk — even a brief one — is a great way to start. Aim to gradually increase with a goal of walking/exercising 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
Cut out sugar-sweetened drinks and stop using sugar in coffee and tea.
Cutting out just one sugar-sweetened soda can easily save you 100 or more calories a day. Over the course of a year, this can result in a 10-pound weight loss. A healthy weight is one of the keys to overall heart health.