When it comes to your heart health, heart healthy lifestyle choices can make all the difference. Arkansas Heart Hospital cardiologist Dr. Andre Paixao sees patients in all stages of their journey with heart disease, from preventative cardiology to fixing problems with the structural heart, and he cites lifestyle changes as one of the most effective ways to prevent heart disease or keep the heart from getting sicker.
Studies have shown that the most heart-healthy diet is a Mediterranean diet, and it’s one that Dr. Paixao often recommends to patients. When you think of Mediterranean food, you may think of feta cheese, wheat and fatty foods — not necessarily things you would classify as “heart-healthy.” But Dr. Paixao advises that while not every Mediterranean dish is going to be a healthy one, some of the key ingredients in a Mediterranean diet are ones that help make your heart strong — ingredients like nuts, olive oil, fruits and vegetables, whole grain, fish and poultry. A glass of red wine every day is even recommended to help keep the heart healthy. Most importantly, it’s crucial to avoid processed food products and dairy, as excess amounts of these can cause heart problems down the line.
Regular exercise can also help build your heart’s strength. The American Heart Association advises patients to aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise at least five times a week. Dr. Paixao says that most patients who exercise believe they are doing this, but may not actually be exercising with enough intensity to do their heart any good. In an exercise study, it was found that nearly 50% of participants believed they met these requirements. But once they were put on heart monitors to track their exercise, only 5% were exercising as hard as they thought they were. Fitness bands and exercise trackers are good ways to make sure you’re getting the proper exercise to keep your heart healthy.
While maintaining a healthy diet and exercise are important, Dr. Paixao emphasizes that it’s okay to indulge every once in a while. Food is meant to be enjoyed, not just help you survive, and enjoying a meal out with friends or family is nothing to be ashamed of.
To learn more about Dr. Paixao and making more heart healthy lifestyle choices, listen to our At The Heart podcast episode featuring Dr. Paixao.