Living a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle


Dr. Roshini Malaney

For American Heart Month, we want our patients to know the major factors that affect heart health and how to live a heart-healthy life.

Happy Heart Health Month! February is American Heart month and we invited Dr. Roshini Malaney, a cardiologist from Northwell Health who specializes in the prevention of heart disease and stroke, to tell us how we can improve our heart health.

Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is the only diet that has been proven to decrease the risk of heart disease. This diet is based on plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices and emphasizes healthy fats from foods such as olive oil. The diet also includes dairy, poultry, fish, and other seafood in moderation.

Eating the Mediterranean diet helps to decrease LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol), which protects against the development of heart disease. 

Alcohol intake should also be in moderation.The American Heart Association also recommends moderating alcohol intake to 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men.

With all the fad diets out there, the most important thing to remember is that everything should be taken in moderation and sustainability is key.

Stay Active

The heart is a muscle and it needs to be worked out to stay strong. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. If your family has a history of heart disease, the only proven way to reduce that risk is staying active..

Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests three kinds of exercise that can boost your heart health:

  • Aerobic exercise like running, biking, or swimming
  • Resistance training that incorporates free weights, weight machines, or your bodyweight
  • Stretching, flexibility, and balance workouts

These forms of exercise get your heart pumping, give your body a healthier composition, and the strength to work out more successfully in the future. You don’t need a gym membership or fancy equipment to get started. Start by setting some realistic fitness goals and create an exercise plan to reach them.‍

Lower Your Stress

Stress can have many negative effects on your heart. Chronic stress has been shown to increase levels of cortisol which is a stress hormone our body produces naturally. Over time, this can lead to high blood pressure which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Stress can also lead to poor food choices, smoking, increased alcohol intake, and poor sleep which can also contribute to the development of heart disease.

The AHA suggests these tactics for managing stress:

  • Exercising regularly. It can relieve stress, tension, anxiety and depression. Consider a nature walk, meditation or yoga.
  • Making time for friends and family. It’s important to maintain social connections and talk with people you trust.
  • Getting enough sleep. Adults should aim for seven to nine hours a night.
  • Maintaining a positive attitude.
  • Practicing relaxation techniques while listening to music.
  • Finding a stimulating hobby that can be fun and distract you from negative thoughts or worries.

Whenever you need help managing stress or other mental or emotional difficulties, it’s recommended that you seek a therapist or your primary care doctor for help.

Keep Your Heart Happy

Heart health is a lifelong responsibility and it’s crucial to start taking care of it before it becomes a problem.

The first step is understanding your risks. The biggest risk factors for heart disease are age, race, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, a family history of heart disease and obesity. While some of these risk factors are not in your control, most of them are. Ask your family if there’s a history of heart disease, stroke, heart attacks, or any other heart issues.

Know your numbers: blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and BMI. See your primary care doctor annually for a physical to check these things. Take an inventory of your lifestyle to see if you exercise enough, eat a healthy diet, or get enough sleep. If you smoke, I recommend looking into ways to quit. 

It’s never too early to focus on your heart health and it’s never too late to change your habits. It will always be worth it to take care of your heart.

A note from Radish Health: Get your blood work done and check your cholesterol levels by booking an annual physical anytime with Dr. Sellers in the Radish Health app.

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