As a medical student, we learn an abundant amount of information about ways we can prevent negative health effects on our bodies. One of the most important topics we learn to focus on with our patients is keeping their hearts healthy.
February is American Heart Month — a month dedicated to focusing on ways to prevent America’s #1 cause of death, heart disease, also known as CAD (coronary artery disease). The risk of developing heart disease increases immensely with obesity, smoking, stress, diabetes and increased blood pressure.
In order to steer clear of our nation’s killer, these are the ways I keep my heart healthy as a medical student:
- Stay active: Getting your blood pumping helps to burn unnecessary calories and avoid fat build-up in the body, which can contribute to heart disease. I stay active despite my busy schedule by walking to campus instead of driving and doing yoga at home at least a couple days per week.
- Avoid smoking: Nicotine and smoke inhalation are absolutely horrible for your health! It says so right on the box: “smoking kills.” There are no health benefits of smoking cigarettes or vape pens so I avoid them at all costs. Avoiding smoking also helps prevent lung cancer and other severe lung complications.
- Eat healthy: A high fat and calorie diet will increase your risk of heart disease. Being a busy medical student, eating healthy can be a challenge with the convenience of fast food (FULL of fat and carbs). If I must eat out, I try to go for a healthier option such as picking a sandwich over a fried burger. Otherwise, I attempt to meal prep in the beginning of the week so I have healthy food more readily available.
- Relax: Constant stress can increase your blood pressure, leading to negative effects on your heart over time. In order to calm my mind, I do virtual yoga classes and practice guided meditation. Meditating before falling asleep is especially helpful the night before exam days.