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Diet, Food & Fitness, Exercise, Heart Health

5 Tips for a Healthy Heart

5 Tips for a Healthy Heart

Did you know that cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of American men and women? NYC Health + Hospitals’ cardiology experts share their best advice for maintaining a healthy heart.

1. Keep Moving

Just a little bit of exercise can go a long way in improving cardiovascular health, says Dr. Lekshmi Dharmarajan, Chief Division of Cardiology at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln. She encourages her patients and colleagues to get about 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. “Everyone should incorporate some physical activity into their lives.”
The secret to staying active, though, is to find an activity you enjoy, says Dr. Dharmarajan. “I always tell my patients to choose activities that appeal to them, such as swimming or dancing, provided that the activities are safe and healthy,” she says. “Walking is a good choice too, as it is safe and effective.”

2. Eat Smart

Research shows that countries with heart-healthy diets tend to have a lower incidence of cardiac disease. That’s why Dr. Eugene Khait, Attending Physician at NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island, encourages his patients to make better dietary choices. “Instead of hitting the vending machines for highly processed snacks, opt for foods that are high in fiber and low in processed sugars, such as fresh fruit,” he says.
When it comes to seasoning your food, choose herbs instead of salt to reduce the sodium in your diet. If you’re craving a snack, reach for peanuts or low-fat yogurt.

3. Manage Your Stress

If you want to have a healthy heart, it’s important to keep your blood pressure down. Stress is a regular part of life, but there are many ways to handle it. Take deep breaths or find a relaxing hobby, such as reading or painting, to help combat stress. Barbara Calvano, Nurse Practitioner at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, also recommends practicing yoga to reduce stress. What do doctors say you absolutely shouldn’t do when you’re stressed? Smoke. “Smoking, as well as excessive drinking, can lead to heart arrhythmia and hypertension.” NYC Health + Hospitals health care system offers smoking cessation programs to help kick the habit.

4. Know Your Numbers

Getting regular check-ups and knowing important numbers, such as your Body Mass Index (BMI) is essential for heart health. “If you don’t know your BMI, speak with your primary care provider or use one of the many BMI tools available online,” suggests Dr. Lekshmi Dharmarajan. It’s also important to know your blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can damage blood vessels over time. Make sure you review your lab work with your doctor and talk about your risk factors for heart disease.

5. Small Things Add Up

When making any lifestyle change, it’s important to pay attention to daily habits and behaviors to figure out what you can do to get healthier. Small changes do add up over time. “If you can incorporate something new into your routine – even a minor change – it will help you get healthier,” says Eleanor Dreyhaupt, Nurse Practitioner at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst. “Whether it’s eating more vegetables on a daily basis or going for a walk three times a week, better choices will help to keep your heart happy

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