Cut Back Where Needed
Drink caffeine conservatively. The doctor enjoys a mug of coffee but tells anyone prone to heart palpitations to keep their caffeine intake to less than 300 milligrams a day, which is the equivalent of two to three cups. Or consider an alternative, like green tea, which has less caffeine but is rich in antioxidants that can improve the flexibility of your arteries, which may help prevent plaque from building up in them.
Eat sweets sparingly. A 2008 study found that women with elevated blood-sugar levels had a risk of developing coronary heart disease similar to that of women with full-blown diabetes. “If you want dessert, make it one that has heart benefits, like dark chocolate,” Goldberg says. “Have a small piece made with 70 percent cocoa so it’s high in antioxidants.”
Tweak family recipes. Instead of frying foods, the doctor bakes or grills, and she uses whole-grain pasta and brown rice in lieu of basic white. She makes healthier versions of the things she grew up eating and incorporates fresh vegetables into them whenever possible: “When I make my mom’s chicken soup, I toss in a bag of baby carrots or use a mandoline to quickly slice and add antioxidant-rich onions or scallions.”
Make small changes. (They work.) Goldberg had a patient who smoked, didn’t exercise, and had a family history of heart disease. She prescribed statins to help reduce the patient’s cholesterol while the patient slowly cut down on smoking and started exercising more and eating better. Within a few months, Goldberg was able to lower the patient’s medication, since the patient’s modest efforts had made a huge impact. “Your health is not pass/fail. Just having risk factors does not mean you’re doomed,” Goldberg says.