45 Things Heart Doctors Do to Protect Their Own Hearts

Heart disease is the biggest killer in the United States, more than all cancers combined. Here, the heart health habits cardiologists follow to prevent heart problems for life.

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"I use a meal delivery service"

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"Good nutrition is essential to heart health. Unfortunately I often miss meals and instead ending up grabbing junk food during the work day. A meal delivery service is totally worth it for me as it helps guarantee that I will have healthy meals and snacks. Another great option is to prep your meals for the week in advance so you can just grab and go." —Nicole Weinberg, MD, cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica 

"I keep a gratitude journal"

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"Studies have recently shown that expressing gratitude may have a significant positive impact on heart health. One study, for example, showed the volunteers who were asked to focus on feelings of deep appreciation had increased heart rate variability, which is a marker that predicts decreased death from cardiac disease. Another study found that patients who kept a gratitude journal for two months had lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers that could lead to cardiovascular disease. Giving thanks can improve subjective well-being and overall health. It's become clear to me that gratitude isn't just good for the soul, it's good for the body, too." —Nicole Van Groningen, MD, internal medicine physician at NYU

"I get 8 hours of sleep a night, every night"

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"Getting a good night sleep is essential. I make a point of getting seven to eight hours of sleep every night so that I feel rested and prepared for my busy day ahead. Poor sleep is linked to higher blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease." —Jennifer Haythe, MD, cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center

"I do CrossFit"

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"I am a strong believer in the mind-body connection and have seen firsthand how exercise not only increases your overall health and energy levels but is also the perfect stress buster. Exercise blunts the 'cortisol spike,' the rush of stress hormones that has been linked to increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. Personally CrossFit is my favorite but I also practice yoga as well." —Adam Splaver, MD, a cardiologist in South Florida and co-founder of NanoHealthAssociates

"I meditate"

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"Each day I engage in activities that alleviate stress and make me laugh. Negative thoughts and feelings of sadness can be detrimental to the heart. Stress can cause catecholamine release that can lead to heart failure and heart attacks. I have found a great sense of comfort in 20 minutes of meditation daily. It gives me the reset I need when pressure is rising. Apps can provide guided meditation and now many workplaces offer daily group sessions." —Archana Saxena, MD, cardiologist at NYU Lutheran Medical Center

"I take the stairs"

Things-Heart-Doctors-Do-to-Protect-Their-Own-Hearts-504383202-PetiaIlievaiStock/PetiaIlieva"It is no surprise that the number of heart attacks greatly increased after introduction of the elevator. Exercise, even little bits throughout the day, are so important to heart health. [Here are 16 ways to lose weight walking]. So I take the stairs at every opportunity." —Richard Wright, MD, cardiologist and chairman of the Pacific Heart Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica

"I weigh myself every day"

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"Almost all advice for reducing your cardiovascular risk includes recommendations for diet, weight reduction, exercise programs, and stress reduction. But I've found that patients often don't internalize these recommendations—because they fail to incorporate them into their daily routine. One simple thing I do to make sure I'm at a lean weight is to set a target weight and then weigh myself daily to make sure I'm maintaining it." —Steven Tabak, MD, FACC, medical director at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute

"I don't eat when I'm not hungry"

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"Don't eat when you aren't hungry. [Here are reasons you always feel hungry]. It sounds too simple but many people eat for other reasons like boredom or stress. Instead become a 'grazer.' It's better to nibble, and every once in a while gorge oneself on a big meal, rather than the old advice to eat three meals a day. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your heart." —Richard Wright, MD

"I'm always finding something to laugh about"

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"Seeing the humor in everyday situations helps me maintain perspective and allows me to laugh as often and frequently as I can. [Check out Reader's Digest jokes for instant laughs]. Laughing about things that are not in your control not only decreases the stress, but dilates the arteries and keeps blood pressure down."  —Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, cardiologist and spokesperson for The American Heart Association's Go Red For Women movement

"I have lots of sex"

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"Sex is like interval exercise, which is very good for the heart. One easy and fun way to help your heart is to have more sex!" —Richard Wright, MD

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