Y's Men of Westport / Weston hike at  Trout Brook Valley Preserve - Photo William Weiss
Y’s Men of Westport / Weston hike at Trout Brook Valley Preserve – Photo William Weiss

By Sunny Intwala, MD, a cardiologist and clinical exercise physiologist with Nuvance Health.

Heart disease is the foremost cause of death in the United States and around the globe. Because heart disease can lurk undetected for decades, early diagnosis is critical.   

Equally important are lifestyle and dietary choices that can help prevent the onset of heart disease.

Below are six new recommended heart-healthy strategies. 

The Portfolio Diet for cholesterol reduction

Green & Tonic - Photo Green & Tonic
Green & Tonic – Photo Green & Tonic

The Portfolio Diet, a strategic nutritional approach, targets the reduction of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — a key player in the plaque formation that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Comprising cholesterol-lowering foods such as plant sterols, phytosterols, viscous fiber, plant-based monounsaturated fatty acids and nutrient-dense whole foods, this diet synergistically reduces LDL cholesterol levels. Some of these foods include soy, legumes, oats, barley, berries, apples and citrus fruit, as well as nuts, seeds and avocado. Westporters can treat themselves to the Portfolio Diet at  The Granola Bar and Green&Tonic. 

Learn more about Preventive Cardiology at Nuvance Health.

Semaglutide

Originally developed for diabetes management, semaglutide has emerged as a weight-loss medication. Recent studies reveal its effectiveness in reducing hunger, inducing feelings of fullness and curbing overall appetite. Weight loss, especially through medications like semaglutide, has been linked to a diminished risk of heart attack and stroke. 

A recent trial indicated a 20% reduction in major heart events among heart disease patients on semaglutide for an average of 33 months, likely attributable to improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity. This underscores the pivotal role of weight management in a comprehensive cardiovascular health strategy.

Learn more about the Metabolic Medical Weight Loss Program at Nuvance Health.

Mammograms detect heart disease

Mammograms are primarily used for breast cancer screening, not for detecting heart disease. However, recent research has suggested a potential link between breast arterial calcification observed on mammograms and an increased risk of heart disease. The calcification of breast arteries may indicate atherosclerosis, a condition associated with heart disease.

While mammograms themselves are not a preventive measure for heart disease, the association between breast arterial calcification and heart disease risk may prompt healthcare providers to consider cardiovascular risk assessments for women with such findings. It underscores the importance of a holistic approach to women’s health and the potential for shared risk factors between breast health and heart health.

Learn more about Mammography and Breast Imaging at Nuvance Health. 

The Mediterranean lifestyle

The Mediterranean lifestyle, characterized by specific dietary patterns, physical activity and socialization, contributes to overall heart health. Although it doesn’t directly detect heart disease, this lifestyle has been associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular events. Emphasizing a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, combined with regular physical activity and social engagement, fosters a holistic approach to cardiovascular well-being.

Learn more about Nutrition Counseling at Nuvance Health. 

Alexis Lawson, aka goddess mama - Photo a goddess mama
Alexis Lawson, aka goddess mama – Photo a goddess mama

Manage your stress, manage your heart health

Chronic stress, a contributor to cardiovascular disease, can be mitigated through various stress management techniques:

  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices like mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises and guided imagery aid stress management, positively influencing blood pressure, heart rate and overall cardiovascular function. For mindfulness, meditation and other sacred rituals whether one-on-one or in groups, check out A Goddess Mama in Westport. 
  • Yoga: Combining physical postures, breath control and meditation, yoga is linked to reduced stress levels, improved heart rate variability and lower blood pressure. Check out yoga45 in Westport.
  • Regular Physical Activity: Exercise, a potent stress reducer, contributes to overall well-being.
  • Quality Sleep: Establishing healthy sleep patterns is essential for heart health, as poor sleep quality is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Exercise keeps your heart healthy

Regular physical activity strengthens the heart muscle, improving blood circulation and oxygen levels. A comprehensive exercise regimen should include:

Yoga 45
Yoga 45

The bottom line: Before adopting any of these practices, consultation with a healthcare professional is imperative. Regular medical checkups and open communication with your healthcare provider are integral in crafting an individualized and comprehensive cardiovascular health plan tailored to your specific conditions and risk factors.

Dr. Sunny Intwala is a cardiologist and clinical exercise physiologist with Nuvance Health. He is board-certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease. Dr. Intwala specializes in general and preventive cardiology and has been in practice for more than 12 years. Learn more about Dr. Intwala.


Note: Nuvance Health has sponsored this content for Westport Journal. Nuvance Health is a system of nonprofit hospitals, medical practices and outpatient healthcare services throughout the Hudson Valley and western Connecticut, including nearby Norwalk Hospital. Visit nuvancehealth.org for more information.