August 28, 2020
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Lucy Michelle Safi, D.O. contributes to topics such as Cardiac / Heart Health.
For people living with heart disease, taking steps toward a heart-healthy lifestyle can make a big difference. Lucy Safi, D.O., cardiologist at Hackensack University Medical Center, offers tips for getting started.
Start small. “Try to inspire a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes both diet and exercise,” says Dr. Safi. For exercise, Dr. Safi follows the American Heart Association’s guidelines, which recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate activity three to four times a week. “That’s the goal, and I understand some people may not get there overnight. If you’re having trouble, try splitting up exercise time to get to the goal; it doesn’t have to be 30 minutes at one time.”
Exercise at home. Getting to the gym isn’t always easy, especially during COVID-19 crisis. Dr. Safi recommends some easy exercises that you can do at home. “Walking outside is free,” she says. “You don’t need a gym membership, it’s accessible to everyone and you can take social-distancing precautions as appropriate. A brisk walk counts as moderate intensity exercise.” Dr. Safi notes that daily activities and chores, such as gardening, housework and cleaning, often count as exercise even if you don’t realize it.
Watch what you eat. The other important factor when it comes to managing heart disease is diet. Dr. Safi also recommends AHA guidelines when it comes to what you eat. This includes trying to create a diet that is low in saturated fats and trans fats, has a controlled amount of sodium and is heavy with heart-healthy foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Read the labels. While this sounds good, Dr. Safi acknowledges that it is harder to achieve in practice. She suggests taking an interest in the food you buy and prepare and learning more about it. “When you go grocery shopping, read the labels,” she says. “As we become more educated on the food we buy, we start to notice things like the amount of salt or trans-fat. Noticing these things and knowing what amounts are appropriate will help you make more educated food choices.”
Manage your stress. It’s important to remember that factors outside of diet and exercise can affect your heart health. While a healthy diet and adequate exercise are the keystones of a heart-healthy lifestyle, stress management also plays a role. “Learning how to manage stress is a life skill that is important, but most people don’t think about it,” she says. You can incorporate mindfulness, such as meditation, into your routine as a way to manage it. But if you feel overwhelming stress that is impacting your daily life, talk to your doctor about it.
Next Steps & Resources:
- Learn more about comprehensive cardiac care close to home.
- Meet our source: Lucy Safi, D.O.
- To make an appointment with Dr. Safi or a doctor near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
- Can wearable tech help with heart health?
- What do heart-healthy food labels really mean?
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.