10 Easy Heart Health Tips

NewYork-Presbyterian cardiologists share simple ways to maintain a healthy heart — through the pandemic and beyond.

animation of pumping heart
animation of pumping heart

The disruption of daily routines, increased stress, and feelings of isolation are just a few of the factors that have made maintaining overall health a challenge amid the coronavirus pandemic. Yet there are simple things that you can do each day to make healthy choices and protect your heart through these uncertain times.

Health Matters asked five NewYork-Presbyterian cardiologists to share what they have been doing through the pandemic to promote a healthy heart, as well as their advice as we continue to adjust to a new normal.

Dr. Latha Subramaniam, director of cardiology consult service at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine

Experiment with new healthy recipes.
Since some of our usual activities have been limited during the pandemic, I use my free time to experiment with new heart-healthy recipes. I have even incorporated some plant-based meals in my diet, like substituting cashews for heavy cream in tasty pasta sauces.

Discover what’s outdoors — even if it’s right in your backyard.
This past year I have used my vacation time to discover new local parks that I previously never made time to visit. Whether it’s a walk, hike, or simply to appreciate some fresh air, being outdoors is a great way to get in exercise, and to reduce the stress and anxiety that have affected us all during the pandemic.

Dr. Altaf Pirmohamed, site director of cardiology at NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine

Make time to exercise.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was not a runner. Now, I find it to be the only time I can unplug and be alone, and it gets me out of my apartment. I try to run along the Hudson River most days for 30 minutes, rain or shine, heat wave or “Snowmageddon”!

Though we are all juggling various responsibilities, try to carve out 30 minutes a day for exercise. Go for a socially distant walk or run, Google a free workout video, or exercise with a loved one virtually. Our physical and mental health require movement; a sedentary life is linked to disease.

Follow the Mediterranean diet.
Now that we’re not eating out as much, it’s a great opportunity to try a heart-healthy diet at home. The Mediterranean diet is clinically proven to decrease our risk of developing heart disease. This diet is plant-based, low-carbohydrate, and full of “healthy” fats like nuts and seeds. Focus on eating vegetables cooked in olive oil and natural spices, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats. Limit red meat consumption and find protein from fish, chicken breasts, eggs, and beans instead.

My favorite meal is roasted salmon, green vegetables, and sweet potatoes – all cooked in just olive oil, pepper and garlic.

Dr. Christopher Irobunda, interventional cardiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the Jim Ovia Associate Professor of Cardiology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians

Find healthy ways to cope.
The pandemic has created tremendous stress in the lives of many people, which can contribute to heart disease.

Understand and manage your stress triggers. Consider trying yoga, breathing techniques, and making time to exercise, which can all reduce stress. Connect with others, whether it’s virtually or with a socially distant walk. I manage stress by meditating for 30 to 45 minutes daily, either at the beginning or end of the day. I also get some exercise in by playing racquetball two to three times a week.

Limit alcohol consumption.
The necessary lockdown may have led some people to increase some bad habits, like drinking too much. Excessive alcohol use can lead to heart problems, and can cause uncontrolled hypertension for those on medication to treat it. It can also lead to weight gain, which is also not good for the heart, and other problems. For those who drink, the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends consuming alcohol in moderation — up to one drink per day for women and two per day for men.

Dr. Stephanie Mick, director of robotic and minimally invasive cardiac surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and the Carrie and David Landew Associate Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine

Avoid being sedentary.
Sitting is the new smoking! Even if you are working from home, make sure to get up and move throughout the day. My watch reminds me to move every hour, and I make sure to do it throughout the day. Consider taking meetings over the phone while walking.

Take the stairs.
Another way to increase movement through the day is taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Start with one flight and build up from there if you have multiple floors to get to your destination.

Dr. Kumudha Ramasubbu, director of heart failure services at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital

Make time to do what you love.
I enjoy cooking, and it allows me to relieve stress after a workday. I love to put music on while preparing a nutritious meal. Cooking also allows me to control what I eat and make healthy food choices like including more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. I try to eat less salt and saturated fat, and avoid added sugar. I also like to improvise with spices and herbs from various international cuisines.

Spend time in nature.
Spending time in nature helps me relieve stress — and it’s a great, safe way for those who have been stuck indoors to get a break. Being active and enjoying the fresh air and natural surroundings energizes me. During the week, I try to take walks in the neighborhood. During weekends, I try to venture out to the many trails available in and around New York City.

For more information on cardiovascular care at NewYork-Presbyterian, visit: https://www.nyp.org/heart.

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