How to Be Heart-Healthy All Day Long

Patients coming to see cardiologists at National Jewish Health in Denver often ask what they can do be more heart healthy each day, at home and work. Cardiologist Andrew Freeman, MD, explains how to incorporate healthy foods, regular exercise, stress management and sufficient sleep into your day.



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Dr. Freeman: One of the questions I get from my patients almost every day is, "Doc, how do I live a heart-healthy day every day, during work, or whatever it is that I'm doing?" And the answer to that question is a lot of different things, and it's really a lifestyle, not one specific thing, right? There's no super food or magic pill.

Dr. Freeman: So what I usually tell people is eat breakfast. There's actually data that shows that, that reduces the likelihood of a cardiovascular event, a heart attack or a stroke. And I usually recommend eating oatmeal, whole grain oats with hot water and fresh fruit on top. That gives you plenty of energy to power the morning.

Dr. Freeman: And if one can exercise in the morning, I find that better. It works a lot like a cup of coffee. It energizes you, and you want 30 minutes of breathlessness. And then as you go through the day, we all accumulate stress. So it's important to be mindful of that. The very word we use for high blood pressure is hypertension, which is too much tension.

Dr. Freeman: And people say, "Well doc, what can I do to get rid of stress?" And, there's really not one magical recipe, right? For some people it's going for a walk. For some people they go out for a hike. For some people they sit and close their eyes, and they meditate for a while. But you really want to clear it out, so it doesn't stay with you.

Dr. Freeman: Then I recommend people eat a good hearty lunch. So a nice big salad with some brown rice and beans and vegetables, and using a vinaigrette or a vinegar instead of the traditional ranch or blue cheese that everybody loves.

Dr. Freeman: And then at night, I usually recommend if they can, doing another period of mindfulness and then connecting with their loved ones or significant others or partners or friends, but making sure they have a solid support network. But there's actually real data that shows that people who have better connections and better support from their family members or their loved ones, do much better overall from a heart perspective.

Dr. Freeman: And then of course, sleeping enough. The latest data actually suggests that seven hours of uninterrupted sleep at night is what's recommended. So you really want to try to make sure you get that, and if you're not getting that, seek some help to get to that level.

Dr. Freeman: So in short, I encourage people to eat mostly plants, if not totally, plants, exercising more, stressing less, loving more, and sleeping enough. And if we can get all those things together, that's where there's some really good cardiovascular outcomes.

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