February is Heart Month, so we asked five of our experts to talk about what heart health means to them. Here's what they had to say.
Heart-Healthy Habits: Michael Gallant, Carilion Wellness
"I try my best to make regular exercise, nutritious eating, and adequate recovery practices a priority in my life," he says.
His top tip for making healthy habits simple and sustainable is to plan ahead.
"Some of the tricks I've found that make this a bit easier to maintain these life choices long-term are to schedule time for exercise and for cooking and eating ahead of time," he said. "Often people will try to squeeze those things into the gaps in their schedule."
When you plan ahead, you only buy what you need, so you save money; you prepare and enjoy healthy foods rather than mindlessly filling up on the run; and before long it becomes a healthy habit for life.
Making exercise and rest part of your routine instead of add-ons means you're more likely to keep doing them too.
Women and Heart Health: Elizabeth McCuin, M.D.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women over age 65, so it's a priority for OB/GYN specialist Elizabeth McCuin, M.D.
"It's important to address a healthy lifestyle, which leads to heart health, at any age," she said.
She encourages her patients who smoke to quit, and works with her patients who are overweight to start exercising, make dietary changes and begin making the healthy choices that will improve their heart health—and their overall health.
Moderation and Your Heart: Christopher Mertes, M.D.
"I've seen people who try to do everything so well that they're tremendously unhappy, and that's not good for heart health either," he said.
When considering overall health, Dr. Mertes also notes the contribution of sugar, sweets and simple starches to diabetes, obesity, and ultimately heart health.
Heart Health for Your Whole Body: Joseph Moskal, M.D.
"Your heart health reflects your lifestyle," he said, so it's important that your lifestyle include a well-balanced diet and enough exercise and rest.
Specifically, he recommends walking or other mild activity for at least 20 minutes each day.
"It's just so helpful for everything you do, whether it's your heart, your bones, your muscles, your back—each of those affects each other."
Weight and Heart Health: David Salzberg, M.D.
Obesity can lead to heart disease as well as diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, osteoarthritis and even certain cancers.
“Obesity can take years off of your life," says bariatric surgeon Arnold D. (David) Salzberg, M.D., director of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery at Carilion Clinic. "We’re talking 10 to 15 years, not just one or two.”
“It is the second most prevalent cause of preventable death, but unlike many other medical problems, it can be reversed.”
Dr. Salzberg's team works with patients to determine whether a medical or surgical weight-loss approach is right for them.
Considering weight loss surgery? Find out what to ask before you decide.