5 things to avoid, according to a cardiologist
- A cardiologist shared five habits she avoids to keep her heart as healthy as possible.
- dr. Nicole Harkin said she doesn’t smoke and avoids interrupted sleep when possible.
- It’s never too early to adopt lifestyle habits that can improve heart health, said Harkin, 41.
A cardiologist shared five habits she avoids to maintain a healthy heart.
dr. Nicole Harkin, cardiologist and founder of Whole Heart Cardiology, a preventive cardiology practice in California, told Insider that it’s never too early to adopt lifestyle habits that can improve heart health“and honest overall health.”
Harkin, 41, began examining the data behind healthy lifestyle choices to prevent heart disease when she was in her early 30s, during a cardiology fellowship.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and members of most ethnic and racial groups in the United States. About 20% of adults who died of coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart disease in the US, in 2020 were adults aged 65 and younger, it said.
While factors such as a person’s genetics cannot be changed, 80% of all heart attacks can be prevented by lifestyle choices, according to World Health Organization.
Here are five things Harkin never does to keep her heart healthy.
Eat red meat
Harkin said she initially started eating a vegetarian diet because of animal rights.
However, she later revealed that the research showed a “pretty strong” link between red meat – especially processed red meat – and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
“I personally do not consume any animal products, but for others I would emphasize avoiding red meat and processed red meat,” she said.
Instead, Harkin said people should eat more fiber — found in fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains.
“It helps regulate glucose, it helps lower cholesterol, and then it usually comes in the form of plant foods that have all these other amazing vitamins and minerals,” she said.
“I really work with my patients to try to get about 40 grams a day because that’s the level where we see real reductions in glucose and cholesterol and things like that,” she said.
Vapes or smoke
Harkin said she does not smoke cigarettes or vape.
“Almost all the heart attacks I’ve seen in young women are in women who smoke,” she said.
According to the American Heart Association “use of inhaled nicotine products, which includes traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vaping, is the leading cause of preventable death in the US, including about a third of all deaths from heart disease.”
They have an interrupted sleep
Harkin, a mother of three, said she “cherishes” her sleep and aims for at least seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, if possible. “Studies they really showed that sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” she said.
Harkin added that obstructive sleep apneawhich is a sleep disorder where part or all of the upper airway becomes blocked while you sleep, is strongly associated with heart problems such as irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure.
“If you snore or have unrefreshing sleep, morning headaches or any other sign sleep apneatesting is a really important step for heart health,” she said.
Get rid of chest pain
Harkin said that, even though it doesn’t seem like it risk factors that cause heart disease like high blood pressure, she would never dismiss chest pain if she experienced it.
“A shocking amount heart attacks happen in people who would be considered low risk by traditional screening criteria,” she said, adding, “People are always much sicker when they come to the hospital because they’ve had chest pain for hours.”
Skip the exercise
Harkin said physical inactivity is one of the “biggest risk factors” for heart disease, so she would never skip it. trainingeven when she is busy or tired.
“Research really supports the idea that a 10-minute walk is better than nothing and is beneficial for your heart health. So I wouldn’t let time be a limitation and a reason not to do any movement or exercise,” she said. .
“If I could prescribe one thing to everyone, it would be exercise,” she added.
The AHA recommends that people get two and a half hours of “moderate” physical activity per week, such as dancing or gardening, or 75 minutes of “vigorous” exercise, such as jogging. Jump rope running, or swimming.
Harkin approaches her lifestyle decisions from a whole-body health perspective, rather than just focusing on weight loss, for example by thinking, “What am I doing to fuel my body today?”
“A diet of just bacon and cigarettes might make you skinny, but it’s certainly not good for your whole body or cardiovascular health,” she said.