To raise awareness during American Heart Month, I had the pleasure of interviewing holistic cardiologist and America’s healthy heart doctor, Dr. Joel Kahn. According to Dr. Kahn, more than 50% of Americans have cardiovascular disease and this staggering statistic has not changed for over 100 years.
Heart health should be a focus for all of us twelve months out of the year; not just just the shortest month of the year. This amazing organ is hard at work for you beating over 100,000 times, pumping 2,000 gallons of blood through 50,000 miles of arteries every single day. It is the number one thing that will leave you disabled, leave you unable to enjoy life fully, or maybe even cut it short. So be mindful and practice Dr. Kahn’s self-care tips that will keep your heart going strong.
“The real, real passion and fire in my life as a cardiologist is that it is preventable and identifiable at a young age, and reversible. So it’s not saying we should be passive about it, wait until the day that you’re in the emergency room and find out at age 48 or 61 or 57 that you are clogged up. You should find out early in life.” Dr. Joel Kahn
Dr. Kahn’s Lifestyle Hacks to Prevent or Reverse Heart Disease
1. Fill Your Plate with Plant-based Foods
Take care of your body and stop eating processed junk food. Heart disease has exploded in frequency because of the standard American diet. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, 32 percent of our calories comes from animal foods, 57 percent from processed plant foods, and only 11 percent from whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.¹ We are filling up with artery-clogging foods! Plant-based foods are essential to healing the body and protecting the heart. Dr. Kahn suggests eating five to six servings a day of whole food plant sources. He enjoys plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, peas, beans, and lentils.
2. Don’t Smoke
It blows my mind that people still smoke; but they do. 34.3 million people, in fact.² If you choose to take just one heart-healthy tip, don’t smoke. That will prevent heart attack.
3. Keep an Optimal Body Weight
Keeping an optimal body weight is critical to heart health. This can be a challenge if you’re on a standard American diet. BMI is a better indicator of a healthy weight than just the measurement of weight alone. Dr. Khan recommends your BMI goal be 20-25.
4. Get 30 Minutes of Daily Exercise
You have to get moving and your blood pumping for a minimum of 30 minutes each day. If you can’t get a traditional workout in, stand or move while you are working on at the computer, do yard work or take a walk at lunch break. This is non-negotiable for a healthy heart.
Dr. Kahn enjoys home workouts because it is more time efficient for him. One day he will do 15 minutes of yoga, followed by 15 minutes of high intensity cardio. He will mix it up the following day with 15 minutes of yoga and heavy weights. When weather permits, he gets in touch with nature and head to the lake with a paddleboard or kayak. Exercise and nature adds an element of blood pressure control and just appreciation for life.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Your heart needs seven to eight hours of sleep a night, not four or five. You will age quicker, you will be overweight, you will have higher blood pressure and you will be more prone to develop clogged arteries if you sleep four or five hours a night. Seven to eight is the sweet spot.
6. Test & Detect
If you’ve got some risk in your life, get it checked. Don’t wait, get it checked. Dr. Kahn informs that with advanced blood work you can detect heart disease ten years before you have an emergency bypass, heart attack or stent. Do you know what, not just your cholesterol, but your advanced cholesterol numbers are? Do you know your three month blood sugar, your hemoglobin A1C? Do you know your inflammation, your high sensitivity C-reactive protein? Do you know your homocystine level, your lipoprotein A, your vitamin D? Visit Dr. Kahn’s website to find out what lab tests to ask your doctor for.
There is also a powerful documentary on why these tests are so important, called The Widowmaker.
7. Sweat in an Infrared Sauna
Dr. Kahn does ongoing research in order to help his patients as much as possible. He came across research from Japan where there is an accepted and standard therapy of heart disease using infrared sauna because it is shown to improve function of the cells that line the arteries and their blood flow.
In fact, the infrared spectrum of light is the one that is able to penetrate our skin and activate our energy systems. A study from the University of Missouri – Kansas City shows that regular Sunlighten sauna sessions can help to stabilize blood pressure. An infrared sauna can help you and your heart stay healthy.
We also have a difficult food chain in this country in terms of trying to eat healthy and avoid chemicals and dyes and antibiotics. We’ve got air pollution, we’ve got water that might have lead and fluoride and other things in it that may not always be as healthy. These chemicals are in our body and Dr. Kahn has learned that one way to get them is to sweat profusely, and that an infrared sauna is more efficient than even exercise at promoting a sort of detoxification. That is really a serious issue for general health, for weight control, for feeling your energetic best during the day.
At the Kahn Center in Detroit, MI, they do not try to manage disease. They try to reverse it. An infrared sauna is just one of the great tools in his toolbox to facilitate that.
Practice Dr. Kahn’s hacks and your risk for heart disease can drop significantly. It is all one beautiful web of very good self care that can keep your heart pumping for a long time.