We recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Gioia Turitto, MD, Chief of Electrophysiology at New York Methodist Hospital-Cornell Heart Center about keeping your heart healthy and reducing your risks of developing heart disease.
About Dr. Gioia Turitto
Dr. Gioia Turitto, MD, is Chief of Electrophysiology at New York Methodist Hospital-Cornell Heart Center. As one of the few women practicing invasive cardiology, she is committed to ensuring that women get the CV treatment they need and deserve through spearheading physician & community educational events. Dr. Turitto was born in Rome, Italy and did all her medical training except for EP Fellowship in Italy. EP training was done in the US, in NY and Kansas. She is a member of several organizations, including the American College of Cardiology, Heart Rhythm Society, and American Medical Association. She has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and has been actively involved in several landmark arrhythmia trials, including SCD-HeFT, a trial of primary prevention of sudden cardiac death, and AFFIRM, a study of rate versus rhythm control management of atrial fibrillation.
It is important for women to know that heart disease kills more American women than all forms of cancer combined, including breast cancer according to the American Heart Association Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2009 update. And a woman’s lifetime risk for developing heart disease is very high – more than 1 in 2. And as you age your risk for heart disease increases. Please note: this information below is not a substitute for medical care. As always, you should consult your doctor or healthcare provider.
1. What can you do to lower your risk of developing heart disease?
Reducing your risk for heart disease does begin with you, so this is a great first question. Many women are unaware that heart disease kills more American women than all forms of cancer combined, including breast cancer. For mothers, studies have shown that women who have a general awareness about heart disease are more likely to have a positive impact on their family’s health, as well as their own health. So, there are many reasons to take charge of your heart health and here are some heart-healthy tips to get started:
- Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke. People who smoke are up to 6 times more likely to suffer a heart attack than non-smokers. If you smoke, QUIT!
- Aim for a healthy weight. If you don’t know your ideal weight, ask your doctor. The more overweight you are — the higher your risk of heart disease
- Get moving. Make a commitment to be more physically active. Every day, aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity such as taking a brisk walk, raking, dancing, light weight lifting, house cleaning, or gardening.
- Eat for heart health. Choose a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and cholesterol. Be sure to include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits
- Know your numbers. Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL, triglycerides), and blood glucose. Work with your doctor to improve any numbers that are not normal
- Assess your risk. Go to www.YourHeartHealth.com and assess your risk for heart disease.
2. What are the best heart-healthy foods to eat, any certain meat, veggies or fruits better than the rest? Is fresh food better than frozen food? Is there a specific diet plan to follow to be heart-healthy?
Women should consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (at least 4 cups daily); choose whole-grain, high-fiber foods; consume fish, especially oily fish, at least twice a week; limit intake of cholesterol, alcohol, salt, sugar, as well as saturated fat (found in fried foods, fat on meat or chicken skin, packaged desserts, butter, cheese, sour cream); and avoid trans-fatty acids. Fat intake should be limited to less than 7% of total calories, cholesterol intake to less than 150 mg daily, salt consumption to less than 1.5 grams daily. We also recommend improving heart health with at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, and 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. An appropriate balance of physical activity and caloric intake (plus formal behavioral programs when indicated) should be used to maintain or achieve an appropriate body weight — for example, a waist size less than 35 inches.
On fresh vs. frozen, the American Dietetic Association says frozen vegetables can be just as healthy, if not more so, since they are picked and processed right after harvest. When buying frozen, just remember to limit frozen vegetables with added sauces as they tend to have high amounts of sodium.
In terms of a specific diet plan, the above is a good guide for heart-healthy eating. However, you can also speak with your doctor who can help to customize a plan for you.
3. What is your advice to young adults who are just starting out on being more heart-healthy? (A friend of mine who just turned 30 was told to go on a heart-healthy diet because he was at a high risk for heart disease, she has him taking a baby aspirin each day and he was also told to walk 5 miles per day.. this is someone who never did much exercise or ate like he should).
It’s never too early to take charge of your heart health. Today, about one of three American kids and teens are overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963, according to the American Heart Association’s website. Among children today, obesity is causing a broad range of health problems that previously weren’t seen until adulthood. These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels. There are also psychological effects. Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression.
My advice to young adults, especially mothers and fathers, “Be a role model for the ones you love, like your children, by following the 6 heart-healthy tips (at the top).”
4. When shopping for heart-healthy foods, what should you look for? (foods low in fat, sodium, etc?)
The good news is that shopping for heart-healthy foods can begin today. Below are a few tips. For more nutritional information, recipes, etc., I suggest visiting the American Heart Association’s website (www.heart.org).
- Plenty of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, especially those that are deeply colored throughout – such as spinach, carrots, peaches and berries
- Fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk; avoid milk that contains added flavorings such as vanilla, chocolate or strawberry. They usually have added sugars and calories.
- Fat-free, low-fat or reduced-fat cheeses.
- Fish, like salmon, trout and herring, that is grilled or baked at home; avoid fried fish
- Cuts of red meat and pork labeled “loin” and “round”; they usually have the least fat.
- Leaner light poultry meat (breasts) rather than the fattier dark meat (legs and thighs). Try the skinless version or remove the skin yourself.
- Whole-grain, high-fiber breads. Limit doughnuts, pies, cakes and cookies.
- Use oils for cooking, baking or in dressings or spreads, choose the ones lowest in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol — including canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil
5. Is there any other advice that you would give our readers about living a heart-healthy life?
- Know your risk factors.
- Talk to your doctor.
- Take charge of your heart health.
The Close the Gap website can help, too – www.yourhearthealth.com