Improve your cardiac health with five simple steps


COVID 19, caused by the SARS-COV-2 virus, is at the forefront of the news today. It has a significantly more serious effect on people with heart disease.

What can you do to keep your heart strong and healthy? The formula really is quite simple.

  • Food as medicine

What you choose to eat does make a difference in your cardiac health. The Greek physician Hippocrates is known to have said, “Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.” This philosophy continues to be relevant in today’s world.

A diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits, low in animal fat and high in fiber offers the best results. Reach for frozen berries instead of ice cream, choose a baked potato over French fries or snack on lightly salted air popped popcorn instead of chips or pretzels. Foods that are fried and high in sodium and sugar should be the exception, not the rule.

Stick with foods that are naturally anti-inflammatory, such as salmon, black beans, blueberries, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, garlic, ginger, peppers, beets, and broccoli.

Recent studies also have shown capsaicin, a chemical found in the part of the pepper that holds seeds, offers excellent heart protection. Both hot and sweet peppers (green and red) have anti-inflammatory properties, which assists in reducing heart disease. Turmeric, which contains curcumin, also has shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that aid in heart health.

  • Pump it up

Exercise helps to calm us when we are stressed or anxious, it builds muscle, keeps our heart and circulatory system strong, reduces insulin levels, and promotes good sleep. The quality of exercise is important for the two types of activity I encourage: cardio and isometric.

For cardio exercise, set a goal of 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week. Moderate exercise gets your heart pumping and your blood moving. To determine the optimal heart rate, subtract your age from 220 then multiply that number by 70 percent (anywhere between 60 and 80 percent is good).

As for isometric exercise, build muscle tone with free-weights and increase flexibility with yoga and stretching. This component of exercise is as important as the effort placed on cardio.

Remember, building an exercise plan is a process. It won’t happen overnight, and that is OK. Figure out what you can do, start slow and build momentum as you become stronger.

  • No smoking allowed

If you smoke, it’s time to quit. Vaping is not a replacement for smoking cigarettes or cigars. In fact, vaping has the same negative effects on your body as cigarettes.

Do not use recreational drugs. Drink in moderation. Find healthy ways to reduce your stress levels.

  • Get a good night’s sleep

Good-quality sleep is crucial to heart health.

Two of the most common sleep disorders are insomnia and sleep apnea – both of which can lead to heart risks if not treated. Multiple studies have determined that sleep disorders are linked to weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, stroke, and heart failure.

Not sleeping well? Think you have sleep apnea? Get it checked out.

  • The family connection

The health of your family plays a role in your health, so know your risk factors.

If any of your parents or grandparents have heart disease, diabetes, or have had a stroke, then you have an increased risk of developing heart-related health problems.

Genetics plays another role, too. According to the American Heart Association, ethnicity affects our health. For instance, African Americans are more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes and strokes, and a high number of Latinos are diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The good news is that with some effort and discipline, you can have a noticeable and significant impact on your health.

Dr. Salman Mehboon is an interventional cardiologist with Coastal Cardiovascular Care, 700 Garden View Court, Suite 204, Encinitas, CA 92024. For more information call (760) 452-6334 or go to