With so much advice and information out there on heart health and heart disease, boiling it all down can be difficult. Renowned physician Michael Ozner, MD, FACC, FAHA, offers his best tips for staying heart-healthy, based on his vast experience as medical director for the Center for Prevention and Wellness at Baptist Health South Florida, and for the Cardiovascular Prevention Institute of South Florida. Below he shares his 10-step heart disease prevention program.
1. Follow a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.
Eat small amounts of lean protein (poultry and seafood), and plenty of whole grains (rice, quinoa, millet, kasha, oats, whole-grain pasta), beans and nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, garlic, olive oil, and red wine. Treat yourself to dark chocolate, olives, and small amounts of feta and parmesan cheese, and enjoy relaxing meals with family and friends.
2. Exercise regularly.
Get your heart rate up for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Brisk walking, swimming, and biking are great.
3. Manage your stress.
Prayer, yoga, deep breathing, meditation, self-hypnosis, napping, laughter and loving relationships are all good ways to cope with strain and tension.
4. Control your blood pressure.
Decrease your intake of saturated fat and eliminate trans fat; get plenty of exercise; manage your stress; and stop smoking. If these lifestyle changes aren’t enough, there are medications you can take to lower blood pressure.
5. Control your cholesterol.
Consume plenty of fiber from whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Oats, cold water fish, red wine, cinnamon, olive oil and soy protein are particularly good for lowering cholesterol. If diet alone doesn’t get you to your cholesterol goal, there are medications, such as statins, that can help.
6. Reduce free radicals and oxidative stress.
Get plenty of antioxidants in your diet by eating fruits and vegetables from every color group each day — orange, yellow, red, blue, purple, and green. Smoking greatly increases free radicals, as do toxins in the form of pollutants and chemicals in processed foods, so avoid these.
7. Avoid chronic inflammation.
Get lots of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, primarily found in fatty fish, but also in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and walnuts.
8. Prevent metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
One in four Americans have metabolic syndrome, characterized by three or more of the following: 1. abdominal obesity (waist size larger than 40 inches for men and larger than 35 inches for women); 2. impaired fasting glucose (more than 100 mg/dl); 3. high blood pressure (more than 130/85 mmHg); 4) elevated triglycerides (more than 150 mg/dl); and 5. low “good” HDL cholesterol (less than 40 for men and less than 50 for women). Diabetes is defined as a fasting blood sugar less than 125 mg/dl.
9. Have an annual physical exam with comprehensive lab.
In addition to the head-to-toe examination, ask your doctor for an advanced lipid test — a comprehensive blood test that detects heart disease risk far better than the standard lipid profile.
10. Avoid unnecessary diagnostic tests and procedures.
Some of the most overused and abused tests, which can lead to dangerous radiation exposure or unnecessary cardiac intervention, include 64-slice CAT scan, nuclear stress tests, coronary calcium scans, cardiac catheterizations, and often coronary stent placements and coronary bypass surgery. Want to know more about Dr. Ozner’s approach and views? Read his two books: The recently released The Great American Heart Hoax: Lifesaving Advice Your Doctor Should Tell You About Heart Disease Prevention (But Probably Never Will) and the best-selling The Miami Mediterranean Diet.