Looking to improve your heart health? Why not ask a cardiologist for tips? In recognition of American Heart Month, River Journal is sharing 10 heart-healthy tips from our partners at Health Matters, who asked five NewYork-Presbyterian cardiologists for easy heart health tips that they follow themselves.
Here are 10 doctor-tested heart health tips.
Dr. Mark Apfelbaum, director of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital and associate clinical professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Get a good night’s sleep.
Getting enough sleep is extremely important for heart health. I aim to get six to eight hours of sleep a night and encourage people to do the same. It should also be quality, uninterrupted sleep. Most people do not get enough sleep, and that has very real cardiovascular implications. If you are having trouble sleeping, try unplugging devices an hour before bedtime, meditating, and exercising during the day. If you still are not sleeping well, reach out to a doctor — your heart and overall health will thank you.
Avoid being sedentary for too long.
My wife is an exercise physiologist here at NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia, and she is always telling me, “Sitting is the new smoking.” While smoking is still one of the worst things you can do for your health, studies show that sitting too long during the day has an adverse effect on heart health. I try to move as much as possible during the day. If your job requires you to sit at a desk most of the day, try to get up every half an hour or so and walk around for 10 minutes, or consider a standing desk.
Dr. Latha Subramaniam, director of cardiology consult service at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine
Start the day with a healthy and filling breakfast.
For me, that entails making overnight oats. Oats are a great source of fiber and nutrients, which can help in lowering cholesterol levels, decreasing inflammation, and promoting a healthy intestinal system. The best part is that it requires no cooking, the recipe can be changed each day, and it is perfect for those of us who don’t have time to eat breakfast at home before rushing out to work. For my overnight oats, I use a Mason jar to mix steel cut oats, almond milk, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, cinnamon, vanilla, blackberries, and a banana. Sometimes I top it with a little peanut butter and coconut flakes, and just place it in the fridge overnight. It’s ready to go by morning!
Find what exercise routine works best for you.
Any amount of activity is better than none. Trying to motivate myself to go to the gym and run on a treadmill is a challenge for me, so I sign up for classes instead. They keep me motivated and accountable. I personally love high intensity interval training (HIIT) classes, but if this doesn’t work for you, find what does. Staying active also helps decrease the risk of stroke and diabetes and can improve memory, sleep, bone health, and mood.
Dr. Kelly Axsom, cardiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Take the stairs.
For me, taking the stairs is a good way to sneak in five minutes of cardiovascular exercise between meetings and patients and before my evening commute. As a physician and a mom with young kids, I find it hard to devote time to work out, so this is a great way to fit in some exercise.
Spend time with those you love.
Quality time with my kids is a major stress reducer for me and fills me with joy. Being happy has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
Dr. Berhane Worku, attending cardiothoracic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital and assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine
Go for a run.
Work and life can be stressful. Stress causes elevations of cortisol levels, a hormone that can lead to a variety of cardiovascular ailments, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. Running counters all of these, resulting in weight loss, decreased blood pressure, increased bone density, and increased joint and muscle strength. Interestingly, running can decrease stress itself, increase confidence, and make you more productive.
Find a park or gym near your work or home and go for a run. You can go running in a park during your lunch break and use the gym to wash up before returning to work — that is what I do. I run four to five times a week, but even two to three times a week will provide a benefit.
Have a salad for lunch or grab a vegetable juice, daily.
Busy days and hectic life routines don’t always encourage a healthy diet. Make it part of your daily routine to have a salad or vegetable juice. By incorporating salads or vegetable juice into your daily schedule, it will become routine and your heart will reap the benefits. I am not a big fan of vegetables, so what I do is order a chopped salad with a tasty dressing from the nearby salad store via a phone app. I also order a veggie juice that I can drink quickly, to get the nutrients in without much effort, from the nearby street vendor.
Dr. Joy Gelbman, cardiologist and assistant director of Population Health at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine
Walk when you can.
When there is a choice between walking and riding the subway, I walk. Staying physically active is important for the heart. The heart is a muscle — you have to flex it!
Stress puts a strain on the heart. I try to find ways to de-stress by doing things I enjoy, like spending time with my children, walking my dog, jogging, and unplugging from electronics.