5 things to avoid according to a cardiologistThank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
- A cardiologist shares the five habits he avoids to keep his heart as healthy as possible.
- Dr. Nicole Harkin said she doesn’t use money and avoids sleep disruption whenever possible.
- It’s never too early to adopt lifestyle habits that can improve heart health, said Harkin, 41.
A cardiologist shares five habits to avoid 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 frankly overall health.”
Harkin, 41, began exploring the data behind healthy lifestyle choices for heart disease prevention when she was in her early 30s during a cardiology fellowship.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that heart disease is the leading cause of death in men, women, and people of most ethnic and racial groups in the United States. About 20 percent of adults who died in 2020 from coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart disease in the U.S., were adults age 65 and younger, it said.
While factors such as a person’s genetics cannot be changed, 80 percent of all heart attacks can be prevented with lifestyle choices, according to World Health Organization.
Here are five things Harkin never does to keep his heart healthy.
Eat red meat
Harkin said she initially started eating a vegetarian diet for animal rights reasons.
However, she later found that research showed a “fairly robust” link between red meat – especially processed red meat – and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
“Personally, I don’t 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 amazing vitamins and minerals in them,” she said.
“I really work with my patients trying to get them to about 40 grams a day, because that’s the level where we really see reductions in glucose and cholesterol and things like that,” she said.
Vape or smoke
Harkin said he 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 “the use of nicotine inhalation products, which includes traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vaping, is the leading cause of preventable death in the US, including about one-third of all deaths from heart disease.”
You have interrupted sleep
Harkin, a mother of three, said she “values” sleep and aims for at least seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night if possible. “Studies did show that lack of such sleep was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” she said.
Harkin added this 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 other signs of sleep apneagetting screened for that is a really important step for heart health,” she said.
Eliminate chest pain
Harkin said this even though she doesn’t look like it risk factors which cause heart diseases like high blood pressure, she would never dismiss chest pain if she experienced it.
“A shocking amount heart attack happened in people who would be considered low risk according to traditional screening criteria,” she said, adding: “People are always much sicker when they come into the hospital after having chest pain for hours. “
Skip the exercise
Harkin said lack of physical activity is one of the “biggest risk factors” for heart disease, so she would never miss out exerciseeven when she is busy or tired.
“Research really supports the idea that a 10-minute walk is better than nothing and good for your heart health. So I wouldn’t let time be the limit and the reason you don’t do any movement or exercise,” she said.
“If I could prescribe one thing for 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 jumping rope running or swimming.
Harkin approaches her lifestyle decisions from the perspective of total body health, rather than focusing solely on weight loss, such as thinking, “What am I doing to nourish my body today?”
“A diet of only bacon and cigarettes may make you slim, but it’s certainly not good for your whole body or cardiovascular health,” she said.