How Cardiologists Keep Their Hearts Healthy

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There are no better people to ask about heart health than the professionals who take care of cardiac patients for a living. And learning about their tips and tricks can help us look out for our own tickers, as well. 

Top of the list? These cardiologists all agree on the big benefits of exercise, a healthy and varied diet and stress management. They’ve also all placed smoking squarely on their list of “don’ts” — citing it as one of the worst things you can do to your heart. 

Read on for more practical advice from four cardiologists from the UW Medicine Heart Institute.  

What are some cardiologist-approved ways to keep hearts healthy? 

For Dr. Jill Steiner, minimizing stress is central to her routine. “I try to practice mindfulness, living with intention and gratitude. I also minimize red meat and keep active — though exercise is not my strong suit.” she says. 

Dr. Kris Patton, also makes sure to walk as much as possible, gets plenty of sleep (an important one that is too easy to brush aside) and makes time for friends and family. 

And both she and Dr. Elina Minami, emphasize the importance of a varied diet.  

“I eat a balanced diet focusing on vegetables, fish and fruit consumption,” Minami says. 

Something to snack on 

When it comes to specific heart-healthy snacks, Dr. April Stempien-Otero makes a nutritious, balanced diet sound mouth-watering. Her favorite picks include “cherry tomatoes off the vine in the summer, crisp apples in the fall and goat cheese and caponata — a mix of eggplant, onions, capers — on whole wheat baguette slices.” 

Fruit (especially apple slices) are also popular with Patton and Steiner, with the latter also loving celery sticks with hummus or peanut butter. 

Minami swears by salted boiled edamame (since it’s rich in protein and fiber) and vitamin C-rich tangerines in winter, when sickness is rampant. 

Get the heart pumping 

Hiking was a top contender for favorite physical activity — which isn’t too shocking considering we’re talking to a group of Pacific Northwest-residing doctors.  

Stempien-Otero suggests taking a jog in Discovery Park or the Arboretum, and Minami touts the heart health benefits of practicing Bikram yoga.  

“It allows me to escape from the hectic pace of work and everyday life while focusing on the poses. The warm temperature generates excessive sweat, increases heart and respiratory rate, and vasodilates [the widening of blood vessels] my body which helps me feel relaxed by the end,” Minami says. 

Things cardiologists would never do 

As mentioned earlier, smoking gets the universal thumbs down from the cardiologists.  

“It can take away more than 10 years of someone’s life and increases their risk for coronary artery disease and stroke by four times, as well as increases their risk for cancer,” says Minami.  

Steiner agrees, noting the decades of data showing smoking tobacco is terrible for heart health. “I couldn’t do it,” she says. 

Why these experts love their job 

Finally, all the doctors agree that they love their jobs; which is not only great for their own well-being and stress level but is also good for their heart health.  

They also emphasize how rewarding working with heart patients is, especially since cardiac conditions can be so debilitating and scary for people. 

Minami acknowledges the draw of connecting with patients and families, saying, “I have the opportunity to develop lasting relationships and provide the best possible intervention to restore their quality of life and functional improvement.” 

Patton agrees. She also loves that the work is so varied and that she and her colleagues are always pushed to learn new things. “It helps me to be flexible and curious,” she says.  

And there you have it — top-notch heart health advice from the experts. Now go forth and make the best decisions for your own bodies (and don’t forget to eat your veggies!).