- A cardiologist shared the five habits she avoids to keep her heart as healthy as possible.
- Dr. Nicole Harkin said she does not vape and avoids interrupted sleep whenever possible.
- It’s never too early to adopt lifestyle habits that can improve heart health, said Harkin, 41.
A cardiologist shared five habits she avoids to try 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 examining the data behind choosing a healthy lifestyle for heart disease prevention when she was in her early 30s while on a heart fellowship.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most ethnic and racial groups in the United States. About 20% of adults who died in 2020 from coronary heart disease, the most common form of heart disease in the United States, were adults age 65 and younger, the report said.
Although factors such as a person’s genetics cannot be changed, 80% of all heart attacks can be prevented through lifestyle choices, according to the World Health Organization.
Here are five things Harkin never does to keep his heart healthy.
Eat red meat
Harkin said she originally started following 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 disease.
“I personally don’t consume any animal products, but for others I would emphasize avoiding red meat and processed red meat,” she said.
Harkin said in a recent TikTok video that regularly eating hot dogs, burgers and “trash” deli meats The arteries.
Instead, Harkin said people should eat more fiber, which is 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 other amazing vitamins and minerals,” she said.
“I really work with my patients to try to get around 40 grams a day because that’s kind of the level at which we really see reductions in glucose and cholesterol and things like that,” she said. .
Vape or smoke
Harkin said she 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 inhaled nicotine delivery products, which includes traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and vaping, is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, of which approximately one-third of all deaths from heart disease.
Have interrupted sleep
Harkin, a mother of three, said she “cherishes” sleep and aims for at least seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, if possible. “Studies have really shown that not getting this type of sleep is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” she said.
Harkin added that obstructive sleep apnea, which is a sleep disorder when part or all of the upper airway is blocked while you sleep, is strongly associated with heart problems such as an irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure.
“If you snore or have non-restorative sleep, morning headaches, or any other signs of sleep apnea, getting screened is a very important step for heart health,” she said.
Ignore chest pain
Harkin said that while she doesn’t seem to have any risk factors that cause heart disease like high blood pressure, she would never rule out chest pain if she had it.
“A shocking amount of heart attacks are happening in people who would be considered low risk by traditional screening criteria,” she said, adding, “People are always so much sicker when they get to the hospital. hospital after having chest pains for hours.”
Harkin said physical inactivity is one of the “biggest risk factors” for heart disease, so she would never skip exercise, even when she’s busy or tired.
“The research really supports the idea that a 10 minute walk is better than nothing and helpful for your heart health. So I wouldn’t let time be the hardship and reason for not doing any type of movement or exercise,” she said. .
“If I could prescribe one thing to 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 lifestyle decisions from a whole-body health perspective rather than focusing solely on weight loss, such as thinking, “What am I doing to feed my body today? ? »
“A diet of just bacon and cigarettes may make you slimmer, but it’s definitely not good for your whole body or for your cardiovascular health,” she said.
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