A glass of red or white wine is a staple of the diet, and according to Gillinov, alcohol increases high-density lipoprotein, or the good cholesterol. It also makes blood platelets more slippery and less likely to form blood clots, which leads to cardiovascular disease.
“I would never tell a heart patient, ‘You should stop drinking moderately,’ ” he said.
Exercise: “It’s an absolute myth that people who have heart issues cannot exercise,” said Gillinov, adding that only patients with the most severe heart problems should consult a doctor before starting a workout regimen. “At a minimum, start walking. You don’t need any fancy equipment. Just your feet and dome shoes.”
High-density lipoprotein, or the good cholesterol, increases through exercise, especially cardio or anaerobic exercise. Said Gillinov: “Exercise is like medicine. It comes in different doses. And the bigger the dose, the better for your heart.”
Sleep apnea : When breathing is interrupted, lowered or altogether stopped because of sleep apnea, blood pressure “skyrockets,” Gillinov said. That is why sleep apnea has been associated with high blood pressure, a heart disease risk factor. In addition, there is a link between the amount of sleep a patient gets and their risk for cardiovascular disease: Less than six hours a night and more than eight hours puts people at risk for coronary artery disease, Gillinov said.
Blood pressure: Keep this under control. Blood pressure above 135 for the systolic, or upper limit, and above 85 for the diastolic, or lower limit, is considered high, Hendel said.
Cholesterol: Levels can be modified by a proper diet but are largely affected by genetics, said Hendel, adding that high low-density lipoprotein, or the bad cholesterol, can be targeted through medications known as statins. A build-up of low-density lipoprotein in the arteries may lead to a heart attack once the cholesterol breaks off and a blood clot forms, said Heimowitz. Doctors focus on keeping a patient’s low-density lipoprotein levels lower than 100 milligrams per deciliter.
Diabetes: The increase of blood sugar can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure and arrhythmias. Type 2 diabetes, a condition where the body becomes resistant to insulin, can be targeted by weight loss.
Smoking: Decreases the amount of oxygen traveling to the heart, and increases blood pressure and blood clotting. Heimowitz, the Mount Sinai cardiologist, said that one cigarette decreases the nitric oxide in the arteries’ lining, increasing blood pressure. “We think about it being toxic to the lungs,” he said. “But in fact all those chemicals are toxic to the arteries in our bodies.” Indeed, 20 percent of all heart-disease deaths in the U.S. are directly related to smoking; smokers have a two- to four times higher chance of having a heart disease.
“Whether you are a male in his 50s or 30s, doing what you can to avoid what we call these modifiable risk factors is important,” Hendel said. “We need to make sure we take these precautions before.”
While proper diet, exercises, smoking cessation and statins for cholesterol are the general methods to target heart-disease risk factors, recently more and more men have added supplements in their fight against heart disease.
So says Dan Alhadeff, chief operating officer for Nutri-Force Nutrition, a Northwest Miami-Dade-based manufacturer of custom-made nutritional supplements, vitamins and nutraceuticals.
“The general trend of focusing a bit more on preventative nutrition is very demonstrated in men’s cardio health,” Alhadeff said.
About one year ago, Nutri-Force Nutrition launched CardioCore Heart Support, a comprehensive soft-gel pill that aims to reduce low-density lipoprotein.
It includes omega 3 fatty acids, phytosterol, which are part of plants and have shown to reduce the absorption of low-density lipoproteins, and coenzyme Q10, which people produce when they are younger, but production lowers with age and can lead to heart disease.