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Heart Smart Living
Heart Smart Living

Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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Best Practices for a Healthy Heart Step Three: Learn How to Take a Break (Without Checking Out)

Best Practices CoverMy new book, Best Practices for a Healthy Heart: How to Stop Heart Disease Before or After it Starts, will be released in May by The Experiment publishing house. In the book, I outline seven important steps that will help you to achieve optimum heart health and provide you with powerful protection against stroke, dementia, and even cancer.

We’ve gone through Step One: Know Your Numbers and Step Two: Eat Well to Live Better. In Step Three, I’ll tell you all about caffeine, alcohol, and illicit drugs, and the impact these habits, big and small, may have on your heart health.

Until the early 1900’s, many physicians and other health practitioners recommended coffee and tea to their patients as health elixirs and brain stimulants. Over time, the medical profession became concerned about caffeine’s effects on the heart rate and blood pressure, and it fell into disfavor. Many people still view their coffee break or their afternoon tea as a guilty pleasure. Fast forward to the last decade of two, and we now know that coffee and tea are chock full of important antioxidants that may have the power to protect our cardiovascular health. In this section, I’ll explain the differences between various forms of tea, describe the potentially negative health effects of unfiltered coffee (including, sadly, espresso), and tell you why caffeinated sodas don’t carry the same healthy punch.

Many people enjoy a glass of wine, a beer or two, or maybe a mixed drink after a long day. The happy news is that in moderation, all of these forms of alcohol may be protective to both the heart and the brain. (Yes, I know your mom may have told you that “every drop of alcohol kills a few brain cells,” but guess what? She was wrong!) Which form of alcohol is best? Red wine wins the prize, and I’ll explain why. It’s also important to know that for women, drinking more than one drink daily may increase the risk for breast cancer.

Smoking is bad for you, your family, and your unborn child. Period. Same thing with illicit drugs, although the nuances are a little different. Since as many as 80 million Americans have used drugs at least once, I thought it was important to include information about marijuana, cocaine, and amphetamines. As a matter of fact, up to 25 percent of heart attacks before the age of 45 are due to cocaine.

I enjoyed writing this chapter, and loved having the opportunity to bust a few myths. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as well.

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About the Author


Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.