A cardiologist shares the top five ways he keeps his heart beating strong, plus ways you can adopt the same habits.
Luis Gruberg, MD, is Northwell Health’s director of cardiovascular research for eastern Long Island and medical director of Mather Hospital’s new cardiac catheterization lab. When it comes to keeping the cardiovascular system healthy for the long haul, he doesn’t just give recommendations to patients — he also makes sure to follow those good habits himself.
- Eat a Mediterranean-style diet
Your heart health starts with what’s on your plate. Dr. Gruberg tries to stick to the elements of a Mediterranean diet, which means plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and lean protein. He does his best to avoid sugary treats and loads up on cold-water fish like salmon.“In addition to making these choices, I also focus on portion sizes,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t eat favorites like pizza, but like I tell my patients, it’s all about moderation with those options. Have a slice and enjoy it. You don’t need to eat the whole pie.”
- Exercise every day
Numerous studies have shown that regular exercise can have significant cardiovascular benefits. An intense workout isn’t the only way, or even the best, to get those advantages. Dr. Gruberg advises a brisk walk once a day, for example. “Personally, I love to jog, and I do that two to three times per week because it’s good to get your heart rate up,” he said. “But even just going out in the evenings for a walk after dinner is beneficial.”
- Don’t smoke
“Nobody should be smoking — we know what a negative impact it has on the cardiovascular system,” said Dr. Gruberg. “The good news, though, is that if you do smoke or used to smoke, the benefits start as soon as you quit. It only takes a couple years to get back to the level of heart health that you’d see in someone who never smoked.” If you smoke and you need help quitting, Northwell’s Center for Tobacco Control can help. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or (516) 466-1980 and start living smoke-free.
- Drink in moderation
Gruberg enjoys a glass of wine when out to dinner with his wife and their friends, as part of the enjoyment of the meal and the company. Some studies have shown that there are health benefits to drinking red wine, said Dr. Gruberg. But even so, be sure to limit alcoholic beverages to no more than two per day for men and one for women.
- Find stress relievers
Feeling anxious, overwhelmed or frazzled takes a toll on the heart, said Dr. Gruberg. Stress is also challenging for other aspects of your health, and chronic stress can lower immune-system response, increase digestive problems and potentially lead to weight gain. “Every person is different when it comes to what helps them lower stress levels,” he said. “You need to find what works best for you. For me, it’s reading and jogging. For others, it might be working on cars or playing with their grandkids or baking. Find your strategy.”