February is American Heart Month. As a physician this month is very important to me. It serves as a great tool to increase awareness about heart disease. It’s an opportunity for me to check in my clients about their own heart health. And, it’s also a time where I reflect on my own lifestyle, and the wellness of my family. You see, we are no strangers to the concept of this life threatening disease.
Six years ago my husband Kevin decided he wanted to run a marathon, at the ripe age of 45. As his wife, and number one fan, I of course encouraged him to go for it. There was just one stipulation, which was that he check-in with his doctor about his heart health before he started pounding the pavement. It’s only smart!
Through the grapevine Kevin heard that a local hospital was offering in-depth cardiovascular screening for $300. He made an appointment for his CT scan and marched into the hospital with confidence. After all he had been active his whole life and even in his forties, he was “fit”.
Well, when the results came back we learned that 50% of the vessels in his heart were obstructed. To me, this was a huge red flag. Yet, his doctors told him that unless he started having chest pains or other symptoms of heart disease, he didn’t have to do anything. Ahhh, what?!
Ultimately Kevin’s doctors ended up giving him a prescription to lower his cholesterol. What a nightmare. Almost instantly after he started taking the drug I saw my strong husband morph into a tired old man. He became increasingly disinterested in things that he used to be so passionate about. Oh, and our sex life … see ya. Months down the road I was also become tired, bitter, and insecure. Rather than losing our marriage, I decided to take Kevin’s health into my own hands.
I started treating him with testosterone. I changed his diet, unbeknownst to him. I made time for us to be active together. I took one for the team, and I tried to keep both of us smiling, damn it. Before too long he was able to lower his dose of prescription drugs and my husband, ahhh … he was human again.
As a physician heart health is something I’ve always focused on with my patients, but it wasn’t until I stood by Kevin through his journey that things really hit home. No matter how healthy we may appear. No matter what our background is. We are all at risk for heart disease.
The good news is that are simple things that we can do to improve our heart health that don’t involve prescription drugs or bypass surgery. And, we can do them today! Here’s my personal recipe for keeping your heart healthy, happy, and full:
- Surround yourself by positivity: Numerous medical studies point to the fact that people with a positive outlook on life tend to have better heart health. Surround yourself by people that pick you up, try to look on the bright side, and even if you have to fake it sometimes … smile.
- Adopt an exercise program: There’s no need to become a gym rat. Even adding light exercise to your daily routine will do wonders for your heart. Start by recruiting a friend and heading out for a stroll. From there the sky is the limit, but most importantly, pick something you enjoy!
- Improve your diet: Structure your diet around heart healthy foods including fish, whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit. And, for those days that you want to splurge look for a dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cocoa.
- Get more sleep: When we don’t get enough sleep our bodies are forced to operate under additional stress, we’re less motivated to stay active, and our metabolisms slow down. All of that is easily avoidable by prioritizing 6-8 hours of sleep each night. Your to-do list, it can wait.
- Hormone therapy: While hormone therapy isn’t for everyone, a recent multi-year study concluded that testosterone therapy helps to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke for elderly men. Consult with a doctor at Amy Brenner & Associates to see if this would be a viable treatment for you.
- Supplements: Food is always the best medicine, but if you can’t seem to get all of those heart healthy nutrients onto your plate, explore supplements. Some of my top recommendations for your heart include fiber, sterols, fish oil, and Coenzyme Q10.
Whether you’re a twenty-five year old female, or a sixty year old male the time to focus on your heart is now. So, what positive changes are you implementing this month? If you need help getting off on the right, rely on us here at Amy Brenner & Associates. We’re here to keep your heart healthy, happy and full.