Pump Up Your Health
For a healthy heart, here are five guidelines from Leslie Cho, MD, whose expertise runs the gamut from interventional cardiology to disease prevention:
- Lead an active lifestyle. Even if you’ve never been one to exercise, you can start by parking far away from your destination and then walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. “Make it your goal to engage in moderate exercise at least 30 minutes a day,” Dr. Cho says.” Any type of exercise is good as long as you get your heart rate up.”
- Eat a balanced diet. Anytime you cut out a major food group, that’s a fad diet, and fad diets aren’t good for you. “I’m a big fan of a high-fiber diet,” she says. “I eat mostly vegetables; they’re not as high in sugar as fruit.” But it’s also important to eat protein and carbohydrates. “Diet is a whole spectrum of things. It’s not just: ‘Eat a lot of blueberries.’ If it were that simple, we’d all be healthy.”
- Maintain a good body weight. You can go a long way to realizing this goal by cutting down on the size of your portions. “Many people have a problem with portion control so weight is a huge issue,” Dr. Cho says. “The ideal weight for most people is what they weighed in high school.”
- Know your numbers: blood pressure, cholesterol, weight-to-hip ratio and, if you have diabetes, blood glucose levels. “We’ve learned that the body mass index is a poor marker,” she says. “Some people are muscular so their body mass index is off. Your waist-to-hip ratio should be less than .8. Waist circumference for a man should be less than 40 inches; for a woman, less than 35 inches.”
- Don’t smoke. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by causing clot formation and plaque rupture of your arteries.
Dr. Cho is Director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Women’s Cardiovascular Center. She is also Section Head, Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation in the Robert and Suzanne Tomsich Department of Cardiovascular Medicine. On staff at Cleveland Clinic since 2005, she is board-certified in interventional cardiology, cardiovascular medicine, and internal medicine.
She performs stent procedures on heart patients; she also advocates prevention to patients and non-patients alike. “That’s how strongly I feel about preventing disease,” she says. “If you are diagnosed with heart disease, you still can prevent having a second heart attack or stroke. Even after diagnosis, you can do something.”
She’s no proponent of supplements, however. “I don’t take vitamins. Time and time again, they’ve never been shown to help,” she says, referring to research studies.
“Good nutrition and lifestyle are the cornerstones of health,” Dr. Cho concludes. “Pills are supplements. They’re not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle.”
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