Heart Health Tips From a Top Cardiologist
Cut through the heart health confusion. Get tips from a cardiologist about diet, lifestyle, and more.
Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD
Your grandmother, father, and cousin may have heart disease, but even with a
strongly inherited predisposition to the condition you can cut your risks
dramatically by pursuing a heart healthy lifestyle -- and it's easier than you
Do You Eat What's Best for a Healthy Heart?
Chocolate is bad for your heart. No, it's good. Wine is unhealthy. No, it's healthy. Pack your plate with protein and cut back on bread to lose weight. No...
With all the mixed messages about "good" and "bad" foods in the media, it's not surprising that many people just give up trying to figure out what they should eat. If you're confused, you're not alone.
"Our research has shown that the No. 1 thing people are confused about when it comes to heart health is what the best diet is," says preventive cardiologist Lori Mosca, MD, founder of Columbia University Medical Center's Preventive Cardiology Program and author of Heart to Heart: A Personal Plan for Creating a Heart-Healthy Family. "Every week there's a conflicting research study or a new book that refutes last year's book."
Forget the competing headlines -- the best way to eat heart healthy is to follow national guidelines from organizations like the American Heart Association. "These are established by experts who monitor research, and are not focused on the latest fads and trends. It's actually much simpler than people realize," Mosca says.
5 Simple Steps to a Heart Healthy Diet
Ready to step up to a diet rich in the healthy nutrients your heart craves? The experts recommend staring here:
One way to make sure that your diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber, and low in saturated fats, is to divide your plate at each meal: half vegetables, 1/4 high-quality protein (like legumes -- terrific sources of protein and great for a healthy heart!), and 1/4 for fish or a very lean meat.
And remember, you should get your nutrients from foods themselves, the antioxidants and other heart-healthy goodies found in foods like blueberries, beans, and artichokes don't pack the same punch when they're not in food form.
And avoid fad diets, advises Mosca. "Almost every one may result in short-term weight loss but leave you weighing even more a year later, and preventing weight gain is one of the best ways to prevent developing heart disease risk factors."
Is Your Exercise Routine Really Helping You Have a Healthy Heart?
It's easy to get discouraged about exercise: It's hard to fit into a busy lifestyle. The people at the gym look like they spend hours there. You haven't run a mile since college. But no excuses -- like eating right, getting the exercise your heart needs is easier than it looks.
If you're not overweight, all you need to maintain a heart healthy lifestyle is 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five or more times a week. And you don't have to do it all at once -- 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening are just fine.
"Getting that amount of exercise has substantial benefits for your heart," says Mosca. Just how much is hard to quantify, but research shows that being physically inactive is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease.
And exercise is the gift that keeps on giving. That's because regular, moderate exercise also helps: